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Alaska heat wave has many claiming climate change

Is it global warming, climate change or just the jet stream that's causing record snow, heat in Alaska?

alaska heat wave nasa photoEnlarge
NASA released this satellite image of a nearly cloudless late-June sky over Alaska, sparking many to offer dire warnings of global warming. (NASA/Courtesy)

Those who live in Alaska can't win for losing, it seems, when it comes to weather.

They've gone from record snowfall to penetrating heat in a matter of a few short weeks. The rapid thaw triggered localized flooding and sparked forest fire concerns, NBC News reported.

"It was an incredibly rapid transition," National Weather Service meteorologist Michael Lawson said. "Literally, our spring was about five days before we jumped into summer-type weather." 

The seven-day forecast in Anchorage for the final week of June called for highs in the 80s and 90s, with light winds and the chance of showers or thunderstorms.

While that might not sound outrageous, it follows the longest "snow season" on record, the Alaska Dispatch said.

On April 7, "several" inches of new snow fell on Anchorage, burying the 132.6-inch record that fell in 1954-55. Snow continued to fall until mid-May this year.

Some sections outside the city reported more than 200 inches; the seasonal average is less than 75.

As you might expect, the tumultuous transition into heat wave have many talking climate change, just please don't jump on that bandwagon so quickly, Ben Anderson of the Dispatch writes.

Alaska isn't all igloos and snowshoes in July and August; temperatures in the 90s isn't cause for panic when it comes to accusations of global warming, either.

In an article this week called "Why Alaska's heat wave is a bad example of global warming," he argues that the northern-most state is notoriously bad at trends.

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"From 2000-2010, Alaska actually cooled off by an average of 2.4 degrees, with 19 of 20 official weather stations reporting declines in that decade," Anderson writes. "In 2012, the state overall was 2.9 degrees cooler than normal."

So what's causing the aberration?

Seth Borenstein, science writer for The Associated Press, says blame the jet stream.

That excuse stands for those walloped by Superstorm Sandy last October, and the unlucky Canadians flooded out in Calgary over the weekend.
It's acting "erratically," he said.

"The jet stream usually rushes rapidly from west to east in a mostly straight direction. But lately it's been wobbling and weaving like a drunken driver, wreaking havoc as it goes," Borenstein writes.

That would explain why McGrath, Alaska, shivered through highs of 15 F last week before racing to 94 this week, or about 20 degrees above normal.

So there's no climate change then? It's not that easy, unfortunately, for those of you looking to prove or disprove those predictions of doom and gloom.

"It's been just a crazy fall and winter and spring all along, following a very abnormal sea ice condition in the Arctic," Rutgers University climate scientist Jennifer Francis told the AP. "It's possible what we're seeing in this unusual weather is all connected."

Like she said, possibly.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/science/global-warming/130625/alaska-heat-wave-has-many-claiming-climate-change