Many of the lower 48 states in the U.S. have suffered through a colder and snowier than normal winter. Not so for Alaska. It experienced record warmth in January 2014. A high pressure ridge in the Pacific off the coast of North America has consistently guided warm air and rain to the north into Alaska. Normally, that warm moist air heads into California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia giving them their rainy season. Not so this year or last winter. As a result, California is in an extreme drought emergency.
This image shows surface temperature January 23–30, 2014 compared to the 2001–2010 average for the same week from NASA’s Terra satellite Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS). Red is warmer than the average. White is near the average. Blue is cooler than the average. The deepest red areas are as much as 40°F (22°C) above the 2001-2010 average. The all-time high was tied on January 27 at 62°F (16.7°C) at Port Alsworth. Many other locations set records across the state.
The warmth is causing a lot of problems. The melting is raising river levels and causing many avalanches. Richardson Highway was blocked to the port town of Valdez by a mound of snow 100 feet (30 meters) tall and up to 1,500 feet (460 meters) long. Runoff of rivers heavily loaded with sediment flowing into the coastal waters was imaged on January 25, 2014 by the Aqua satellite.
More local reporting on aspects of this story by Yareth Rosen in the Alaska Dispatch January 28, 2014 .