Professor Jennifer Francis predicted that a warming Arctic would lead to a wavy, weakened polar vortex that would spill cold air over the central U.S. and central Asia. This January's weather is precisely the kind of weather she was predicting would become more common.
PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT CCAThe last half of January has been exceptionally warm in Alaska and western Canada
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE ANCHORAGE AK
1110 AM AKST TUE JAN 28 2014
...RECORD TEMPERATURES SET ON MONDAY JAN 27TH...
STATION HIGH PREVIOUS RECORD/YEAR
NWS AT SAND LAKE 48 TIED 48/1945
PALMER APRT 57 WAS 47/2007 2ND RECORD DAY IN A ROW
SEWARD APRT 61 WAS 42/2003
SELDOVIA 57 WAS 40/2003
SOLDOTNA 52 WAS 48/1965
PORTAGE GLACIER 55 WAS 41/2007 AND 2003
KENAI APRT 49 WAS 43/1945
HOMER APRT 57 WAS 45/1945
CORDOVA APRT 57 WAS 46/1926
AlaskaThe warm weather has destabilized the deep snow pack, triggering huge avalanches. A deep snow pack built up in early winter as storms tracked north into Alaska instead of west into California, Oregon and Washington. A pair of avalanches has created a snow dam across the road to Valdez, the terminus of the Alaska pipeline. The video below the orange avalanche, shows an air view the deep lake and huge snow dam that has cut off land routes to Valdez.
UPDATE 1/28: The all-time warmest temperature ever observed in Alaska was tied on January 27 when the temperature peaked at 62°F (16.7°C) at Port Alsworth. This ties a similar reading measured at Petersburg on January 16, 1981.
The last half of January has been one of the warmest winter periods in the state’s history with temperatures averaging as much as 40°F above normal on some days in locations in the central and western portions of the state. All time January monthly heat records have so far been established at Nome: 51°F (10.6°C) on January 27 (former record 46°F/7.8°C on January 7, 1942, POR since 1906), Denali Park HQ: 52°F (11.1°C) on January 27 (former record 51°F/10.6°C on January 21, 1961, POR since 1922), Palmer: 58°F (14.4°C) on January 26 (former record 52°F/11.1°C on January 20, 1961, POR since 1949), Homer: 57°F (13.9°C) on January 27 (former record 51°F/10.6°C on January 23, 1961, POR since 1932), Alyseka: 57°F (13.9°C) on January 26 (former record 50°F/10.0°C on January 4, 1995, POR since 1963) Seward: 58°F (14.4°C) on January 27 (former record 55°F/12.8°C on January 7, 2005, POR since 1949), Talkeetna: 47°F (8.3°C) on January 25 (former record 46°F/7.8°C on January 21, 2004, POR since 1949).
Meanwhile, the snow has started at my house in central North Carolina. We are in the zone where the weather service has low confidence in the amount forecast because we're near the western margin of possibly heavy snow.
At first, it seems preposterous that a warming climate could lead to more snow in midwinter on the U.S. east coast, but that may be exactly what has been happening over the past 2 decades. The warming of the Barents sea and the far north Atlantic and Pacific may be producing more domes of warm air over the Arctic in the midwinter. Those warm air domes can trigger Arctic outbreaks into the eastern U.S. and snow events like we are having in North Carolina tonight. And, with the Gulf Stream north of normal for January and warmer than normal, there's a potent source of moisture to generate heavy snows.