Southwestern Alaska has cloudiest summer in 30 years, according to climatologists

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Summer has had a slow start from Southcentral Alaska, down to Kodiak, all the way out the Aleutian Chain. Slower than it’s been in decades. 

“By climate model analysis, we’ve had less sunshine this May and June combined than any May/June in the last 30 years,” said Rick Thoman, the Alaska climate specialist at the International Arctic Research Center. 

Kasheveroff Mountain is usually easily visible from town and around Women’s Bay, but fog, clouds, and rain have obscured views the last few months, June 23, 2023. (Brian Venua/KMXT)

There’s been occasional breaks in the clouds, however forecasters don’t know when communities will see a more “normal” summer. 

“Sooner or later, this weather pattern will change – they always do,” he said. “But unfortunately, that does not appear to be on the horizon yet. The weather models basically don’t show much change in the weather pattern for our part of the world anytime in the next week.” 

Thoman says it’s all because of a low-pressure front that’s stuck over the southern part of the Bering Sea. Low pressure fronts condense water vapor as it rises, and form clouds. This year, those clouds formed around the Aleutian Chain have blown east with the jet stream and caused a slow start to the summer for the rest of southern Alaska. 

Breaks in the clouds like this have teased residents with patches of direct sunlight, July 3, 2023. (Brian Venua/KMXT)

There are only a few ways a system like that can break, especially this time of year. It could dissipate on its own. A typhoon could come along and change the pressure, but those kinds of storms aren’t common until the fall, according to Thoman. 

It hasn’t been all bad, though. Thoman said clouds across the state have brought a consistent amount of rain instead of heavy downpours. The wet conditions have contributed to a remarkably slow fire season

“It’s more the frequency of rain than the fact that it’s been deluging,” he said. “Some places have had rains more than 25 days in May and early June. A lot of the amounts are low, but it keeps things wet.”

Meteorologists can only predict weather about 7 to 10 days ahead, and are unsure of when the low-pressure system will break. If the pattern continues into the fall, El Niño will take hold and could bring more storms to coastal communities. All Alaskans can do for now is hope for clear skies and some sun in the coming weeks. 

 

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