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Cold snap brings subzero temps to Southcentral

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Sabine Poux/KDLL
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Cold temperatures this week broke records in parts of the Kenai Peninsula and western Alaska.

But they follow what was one of the warmest first weeks of November on record for the state.

“We’ve already kind of forgotten about that. Because now we’re in deep freeze," said Brian Brettschneider, a research physical scientist with the National Weather Service Alaska Region. He said that week was warmer because of the southerly winds blowing toward the region.

That’s not the case anymore.

"The last seven, eight, nine days are significantly colder than normal across much of mainland Alaska," he said.

Temperatures dipped well below freezing on the central peninsula this week. The southern peninsula, while not as cold, hit some of its own temperature records.

Wednesday night, Homer dropped to 1 degree — a record for that date. Thursday morning, it set another daily record of 3 degrees.

"That’s really kind of noteworthy because Homer hasn’t set a cold-season low-temperature record in about eight years," Brettschneider said. "And if you look out further west, Bethel set a record low two days in a row. Those are their first record lows for any time of the year since 2015.”

He said it’s not all that surprising that it’s cold this early in the winter. 

"We lose almost all of our solar input by mid-November," he said. "So once you hit the middle of November, the sun is providing only a little bit of energy. And then, once you get to December, it’s providing almost no energy at all.”

And while southerly winds ushered in warmer temperatures earlier this month, he said, winds from the north are now bringing the frost.

Those cold winds also deposited ash into Kodiak this week from a century-old volcanic event.

The 1912 eruption of the Novarupta volcano on the Alaska Peninsula was the largest in the 20th century. It deposited hundreds of feet of ash in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.

“There was so much ash in the vicinity of where the eruption took place that when you get a strong, northwest wind, it actually resuspends some of that ash and blows it off to the southeast," Brettschneider said.

As for what the rest of winter holds, Brettschneider said temperatures will stay below normal for the foreseeable future. So although the central peninsula will climb above zero this weekend, don’t put away that turtleneck quite yet.

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