Record-high temperatures in Alaska over the holiday weekend doesn't mean locals have pulled out their bathing suits. In fact, Fairbanks and other areas are now experiencing what Alaska Public Media calls a "weather roller coaster," with snowstorms followed by heavy rains that are wreaking havoc across the state. The BBC notes that even though the island of Kodiak enjoyed a record-smashing 67 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday, other places have plunged into a deep freeze, including Ketchikan, which saw one of its coldest Christmas Days on record, with a Saturday low of negative 0.4 degrees.
Rick Thoman of the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy tells Reuters that this time of year in Alaska is usually a dry, cold one that brings "fluffy" snow to the state's interior. Not so this time around, thanks to what experts tell the BBC is a burst of warm air from Hawaii that's bringing more moisture to the region. That's translated to heavy snow followed by torrential rains, which in turn has led to an "Icemaggedon" that leaves dangerous thick sheets of ice clinging to roadways.
The state's Department of Transportation and Public Facilities explains that when air temperatures are mild but road temps are subzero, ice "binds" to the roads' surface, and it's "extremely difficult" to remove once it's done so. Thoman tells the BBC that ice will likely stick around till March or April. The erratic weather has led to road shutdowns, business closures, and power failures; in Delta Junction, snow caved in the roof of the city's only grocery store.
Thoman points to climate change and tells Reuters he's not completely surprised by the warm and wet weather of late, as it's been increasingly trending this way in Alaska for the past 20 winters. The outlet cites a recent study that predicts Arctic regions will see more winter rain than snow by 2060 or 2070. "A warming, moistening world has put our thumbs on the scale to make this more likely," Thoman says. (Read more Alaska stories.)