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Frigid temperatures primed Bristol Bay for December blizzards

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Izzy Ross/KDLG
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As temperatures drop, snowflakes are less likely to stick together in colder weather. That snow also tends to trap more air, so there’s a higher chance of blowing snow and low visibility.

 

Another blizzard hit Dillingham on Monday afternoon — the third snowstorm in a week. 

 

Brian Brettschneider, a climatologist with the National Weather Service in Anchorage, said the storm was another in a series of low pressure systems moving through the region, which brought with it wind and precipitation.

 

“Of course, you combine those two and you get a blizzard out of it if you’re still below freezing,” he said.

 

And it was way below freezing Monday, with the wind chill down around -26 degrees. 

 

Colder water temperatures in the Bering Sea, Bristol Bay and Gulf of Alaska, combined with the cold spell at the end of last month, have kept the temperatures down across the region. 

 

“It can be really hard to dislodge all that cold air," Brettschneider said. "So even when you do get storms that come through, maybe in the past they would be warmer, we just have such a cold anchor of air that they don’t get warm.” 

 

Brettschneider said as temperatures drop, snowflakes are less likely to stick together in colder weather. That snow also tends to trap more air, so there’s a higher chance of blowing snow and low visibility.

“If you’re at 32 degrees, and you get heavy snow and strong wind, it’s harder to turn that into a blizzard compared to if it was colder," he said. "So really, it’s all the ingredients together.”

 

The Dillingham area got up to around three feet of snow last week. And Monday’s storm brought another few inches. Forecasters say Bristol Bay can expect temperatures to warm to the mid-30s by the end of the week — along with more snow. 

 

Contact the author at izzy@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.

Izzy Ross is the news director at KDLG, the NPR member station in Dillingham. She reports, edits, and hosts stories from around the Bristol Bay region, and collaborates with other radio stations across the state.