Alaska Heat Wave: 90-Degree Temperatures Break Weather Records

By iScienceTimes Staff on June 26, 2013 12:14 PM EDT

heat wave
A heat wave in Alaska has brought temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, an extremely rare occurrence in the state. The heat wave has been blamed for wildfires throughout the state. (Photo: Reuters)

The Alaska heat wave has caused the Land of the Midnight Sun to bask in 80 degree temperatures, 20 degrees Fahrenheit above normal temperatures.

The heat wave in Alaska, which is expected to last through the weekend, robbed the state of a normal spring.

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"It was an incredibly rapid transition," Michael Lawson, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, told NBC. "Literally, our spring was about five days before we jumped into summer-type weather." 

Temperatures have recently gone above 90 degrees, an extremely rare occurrence in Alaska. Fairbanks has only reached temperatures of 90 or above 14 times in the last 109 years. Alaska reached a record-breaking 96 degrees on Tuesday in the town of Talkeetna, about 100 miles north of Anchorage. 

Aside from the fun aspect of the heat wave -- Alaskans have been flocking to lakes and beaches -- the heat wave is being blamed for wildfires. The heat wave has caused brush to become very dry, which can catch fire when lightning strikes. Near Fairbanks, more than 70 firefighters are currently battling a wildfire that started in this manner, and there are 80 fires burning around Alaska. The National Weather Service has issued warnings for a large swath in and around Fairbanks.

The heat wave in Alaska is being blamed for some strange animal behavior, too. Around Anchorage, moose have been congregating near lawn sprinklers, with one moose taking a dip in a kiddie pool. At Goose Lake, an outdoor swimming spot, park managers had to tell several patrons trying to enter the lake that they weren't allowed to bring pet iguanas, snakes and turtles.  

So what is causing the Alaskan heat wave?

The jet stream, a band of air current high above the globe, has been behaving oddly, meteorologists say. The stream usually goes from west to east along a generally straight path. In the past few years it's been moving erratically, swinging from side to side, leading to fluctuating, extreme weather.

The polar jet stream, which hovers over Alaska, Canada, and the U.S., "has everything to do with the weather we experience," Rutgers University climate scientist Jennifer Francis told The Huffington Post.

In addition to the Alaska heat wave, extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy and major snowstorms have all been blamed on the unusual jet stream.

"I've been doing meteorology for 30 years and the jet stream the last three years has done stuff I've never seen," said Jeff Masters, meteorology director at Weather Underground. "The fact that the jet stream is unusual could be an indicator of something. I'm not saying we know what it is."

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