Thursday, September 05, 2013

Record "Warmth" At The South Pole, Early Season Cold In Alaska

The South Pole isn't a place that's warm at any point in the year, let alone in August...which is their equivalent of February and the height of Antarctic winter. This is a place that has yet to see the sun rise from its winter slumber on our side of the equator -- sunrise at the Amundsen-Scott station occurs at 5:26 AM on the 21st. That isn't to say it's completely dark still down there -- there is varying amount of light through the course of the day as the earth tilts towards the southern hemisphere's dominance -- but the sun still resides below the horizon for the next two weeks for the few hardy souls that reside there through the winter.

August, at least by South Pole standards, was warm down there. Record breaking for the month of August, as a matter of fact.

Average temperatures at the South Pole. Click image for full size. Via Wunderground & Wikipedia.
Temperatures averaged -63.9 degrees last month, breaking the record of -64.3 from August 1996.  The "warmest" day was on August 6th -- a high of -37 (it was also -37 in August 2011).  To put it in perspective, last August's warmest day was -62 (set twice) and featured a low of -103.  In all of those cases, it's helluva lot colder than what Philadelphia or most locations around here get in the coldest parts of winter...probably one reason why only the hardiest of scientists reside or even visit the South Pole.

Closer to home, record early season chill occurred in Alaska last week. Bettles, AK, dropped to 15 degrees last Saturday, setting a record low for the date and for their earliest sub 20 degree morning on record (going back to 1945). That 15 wasn't even the coldest low in Alaska -- Norutak Lake dropped to 13. Neither of those are state cold records for August...but still darn cold for this time of the year, regardless of location! The not-so intriguing point about the cold snap in Interior Alaska is that it came on the heels of a rather warm summer for them...meteorological yin and yang at work, perhaps on a somewhat more extreme scale.