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Brrrrrrrr! Last year coldest in three decades for Anchorage

Ben Anderson
Loren Holmes photo

With a record snowfall this spring, an unusually chilly summer, rain and windstorms in the fall, and a subtropical cyclone just before the New Year, Anchorage residents knew something was up with the weather last year. On Thursday, the National Weather Service confirmed those suspicions, reporting that 2012 was the coldest in 30 years for Alaska's largest city --and one of the wettest ever.

The average temperature for for 2012 hovered barely above freezing, at 34.4 degrees. The city saw its fourth-coldest January and its seventh-coldest July. It added up to Anchorage's 23rd coldest year since records have been kept, but it was enough to make 2012 the most frigid year since 1982.

Of course, even Anchorage's dismal weather didn't compare to other parts of the state. The coldest temperature in the city came on Jan. 28, a nippy -15 degrees. The next day, the Interior city of Fairbanks saw the mercury dip to its low of -51 degrees.

As if the chill wasn't bad enough, last year was Anchorage's second-wettest year ever, too. A total of 21.48 inches of rain fell, plenty damp but well short of the 1989 record of 27.75 inches. 

A good portion of that rain was stuffed into the fall, when a significant weather system dumped rain across Southcentral, causing flooding in the Mat-Su Valley. The effects weren't quite as strong in Anchorage, although streams swelled and some briefly crested their banks in the deluge.

"A large portion of the year's rainfall occurred in September, when 6.49 inches of rain fell," the National Weather Service reported in its year-end round up. "This makes September the third-wettest September on record."

Oh yeah, and then there was that snowfall record that the city broke back in April, after 134.5 inches fell during the winter of 2011-2012, breaking the previous record of 132.6 inches in 1954-1955.

Surprisingly, the Arctic looks to be the only region of Alaska basking in unseasonable warmth, with Barrow seeing above-average temps. Joining the northernmost U.S. state in battling the cold is Russia, where a cold snap in December left dozens frozen to death. 

December in Anchorage was below the norm, too, with the city was 4.4 degrees cooler than usual, according to the December weather roundup.

Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at)alaskadispatch.com