Thursday, January 8, 2009

The streak ends

I've just about exhausted my supply of cold snap leads this week. I ended it, I hope, with a story on frostbite today and temps at a whole +1 after work today.
Of course, Thursday is my rest day, so I stayed off the skis, but toughed it out every day earlier this week down to -27 on the trails Tuesday night.
So I thought I'd address the folks who might think this is normal.
Let be clear, according to everyone who's been here a while, the cold temperatures show up on occasion, but rarely for so long.
The fact is, weather rarely sticks around here for any period of time .
The norm is a little bit of everything, everyday.
This summer for example, there were weeks that went by where one could have said, it's rained every day and told the truth, particularly in the more volatile months of August and September.
At the same time, they'd also have to acknowledge that it had been sunny everyone of those days too.
So while it's been darn close to 40 below a few times in the last week, when this system finally moves through it may turn to 40 above and raining.
I'm really really hoping not as you can imagine, but it's certainly possible.
I thought I'd share some weather info, particularly for my friends back east who might be curious as to what things are like.
First, you can take a look at averages and records for Soldotna at this link.
On Wednesday morning, the coldest day here in the driveway at 37 below, we were 10 degrees from setting a new all time record low for the central peninsula.
That says right there that this cold snap was at the bottom end of mercurial reading around here.
That's significantly colder than what one would expect to find back east, no question.
Here's another difference, Soldotna's record high for January is only 47. February and March haven't done much better, with temps only reaching 52 in both months.
I can say with assurance that it can, and has made it well above that back east, often to by dismay, wiping out the snowpack overnight.
While January's record high in the thaw may not have exceeded the low 60's. March has sky rocketed to an unbelievable 82, a high not seen in these parts once all this past record cold summer.
Yet, Soldotna and the temperate east only vary at extremes. Their averages looks very similar, particularly in the winter, with Soldotna trailing in the warmer months.
The moderate temperatures of July and August are largely influenced by the increased precipitation in those months.
What really defines the central peninsula from say Middlebury or Saratoga though, is the fact that its on the west coast.
We're simpler, in the sense that we're impacted almost constantly by the same system, but we have massive differences locally.
Essentially, the same storms come through with the consistency of clockwork. I can tell the weather for the next three days simply by how the wind blows.
If I were to move 50 miles however, the result of that blowing wind would be just as consistent, but possibly entirely different than it is at camp.
For example, through the summer, I'd often say, "It's always sunny in Soldotna," after the tv comedy, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."
While this obviously wasn't always true, Sterling, which is only 10 miles east of Soldotna, is often subject to more cloud cover and rain because it is just close enough to the Kenai mountains.
In another example, on my 20 mile drive to Kenai each day, temperatures will fluctuate by up to 15 degrees, warmer in the winter and colder in summer.
That kind of fluctuation might happen in the east too, but generally, if it's 10 degrees in Middlebury, it will be 8-10 in Burlington, and that's a 40 mile difference.
The east however, is subject to much wilder and less predictable weather systems that are influenced by an entire Continent of variations. Hence, the east and and the central pen differ the most at their extremes, but largely have the same climates.
One very important factor to note out of all of this though, is the precipitation difference.
Middlebury averages 17 inches more precipitation a year than Soldotna...suckas.

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