Interior sees impacts of record heat in July

Adrian Peterson explores the impacts seen in the interior as the world experienced the hottest month on record in July.
Published: Aug. 23, 2023 at 9:07 AM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Around the world, July was listed as the warmest month on record. “By the global standard this just smashed the previous records,” said Rick Thoman, an Alaska climate specialist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

With temperatures higher than normal, from Antarctica to the North Pole, the last frontier did not escape the impacts of the world wide heat. “Some places in the western Northwest Territories saw temperatures as high as a hundred degrees at the same latitude as Fairbanks,” explained Thoman.

While Fairbanks was able to avoid triple digit temperatures, the neighboring communities still saw record highs. Just off of the Alaska Highway in Northway, about 260 miles east of Fairbanks, the record high of 88°F was seen once again. It was also the warmest July on record for the interior, but it wasn’t the warmest month. “In most places, June of 2004 was a little bit warmer,” said Thoman.

Despite disparity, the interior still saw multiple record highs for the night time lows, keeping the average temperature high on the data tables and keeping the area warmer overall.

Those long term trends are significant for climate data and observed patterns and trends. “That’s what’s really going to be driving things like permafrost thawing, things like insect activity in the boreal forest,” Thoman said.

Those changes are problematic for many reasons, from degradation of forests to increased fuels for wildfires, and looking towards an urban setting, it also increase the amount of frost heaves. More frost heaves means an increase in time and money spent of repairing roads, usually the same roads year after year.

Buildings also face similar dangers to frost heaves, as seen at military installations in the arctic. The Dept. of Defense has studied how changes to the environment, primarily increased temperatures, have caused massive shifts in permafrost which has lead to structural damages. Those damaged buildings pose a threat to national security and preparedness.

Permafrost isn’t the only change causing concern. “Everywhere in Alaska at this point... Every single glacier is losing mass,” Thoman said. This summer alone, Alaska has seen the devastating impacts of melting glaciers as Juneau suffered millions of dollars in structural damages after the Mendenhall Glacier experienced an outburst.

From wildfires to land giving way to water, all coastal and inland areas of Alaska will be susceptible to devastation of varying degree, as temperature increases are on the rise.