Back in the early 80's, I started hand plotting a crude measure of mean Alaskan mainland temperature, namely the average of Fairbanks, Anchorage, Nome and Barrow (FANB) mean annual temperatures. I knew the 1976 winter was exceptional, having no Fairbanks temperatures as cold as -30 degrees F, and I remember pussy willows blooming in November. It seemed that since that time, it hadn't been as cold here in Fairbanks as it had been earlier.
The FANB plot agrees with that observation - the mean annual temperature from 1977 through 1998 never dropped as low as the average from 1954 through 1976, even in the Pinatubo year, and only one year prior to 1977 was as warm as the average since the 1976-77 winter. The actual change seems to have occurred late in 1976. Although 1999 was below the 1954-76 average, the FANB average rebounded in 2000 in spite of a cool fall.
The plot was publically presented at a 1990 conference (reference: Bowling, S. A., 1991: Problems with the use of climatological data to detect climatic change at high latitudes. in: International conference on the role of the polar regions in global change: Proceedings of a conference held June 11-15, 1990 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Volume 1, 206-209) and I have updated it annually since.
The plot I devised started in 1954, the first full year that all four stations measured temperatures at their current airports. There have been station moves and instrument changes since at all four stations, but none coincide with the change apparent in the plot below.
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Last update January 3, 2000