While the eastern United States continue to freeze in between snowfalls, Alaska is experiencing an astounding heat wave:
To give people an idea how freaky an event this was for the 49th State, NASA has put together a visualization of phenomenal temperatures from January 23 to the 30th. Based on satellite readings, the map shows warm-weather abnormalities spreading in red all across the region. Areas of white were about average, meanwhile, and blue spots show cooler-than-normal temps:
One of the most jarring things about this weather has been its effect on the snowpack. Widespread melting triggered a number of January avalanches, with one of the worst flinging a 100-foot-high pile of snow onto the Richardson Highway. The blockage stretched for hundreds of feet and completely sealed off land access to Valdez, a fishing port of about 4,000 people.
The cause? NASA says:
A persistent ridge of high pressure off the Pacific Coast fueled the warm spell, shunting warm air and rainstorms to Alaska instead of California, where they normally end up. The last half of January was one of the warmest winter periods in Alaska’s history, with temperatures as much as 40°F (22°C) above normal on some days in the central and western portions of the state, according to Weather Underground’s Christopher Bart. The all-time warmest January temperature ever observed in Alaska was tied on January 27 when the temperature peaked at 62°F (16.7°C) at Port Alsworth. Numerous other locations—including Nome, Denali Park Headquarters, Palmer, Homer, Alyseka, Seward, Talkeetna, and Kotzebue—all set January records.
That's the same phenomenon sending frigid Canadian air down into the eastern U.S. So when people wonder how to square their perceptions of winter with the reality of antrhopogenic climate change, tell them to go to Alaska. They might not understand but at least they'll be far away.