Bristol Bay temperatures to rise as subzero cold moves out

Jan 10, 2020

It's been a cold start of the year in Bristol Bay — the wind pushed temperatures to -40 in some areas. But that subzero weather is on its way out. 

A thermal map showing the weather patterns moving over Bristol Bay, January 10, 2019.
Credit Courtesy of NWS

Port Heiden saw temperatures jump Wednesday afternoon, from below zero degrees Fahrenheit to the mid-twenties.

“Pretty darn impressive for the Alaska Peninsula," said Rick Thoman, a climate specialist with the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He said oceanic winds pushed a cold air mass away from the village.

“That cold air being denser than warm air — warm air doesn’t really displace the cold air, but rather, the cold air moves out. So that allowed, with the change in the wind direction, the temperature to jump right up,” he said.

The temperature jump in Port Heiden on January 8.
Credit Courtesy of Rick Thoman.

That extreme shift — from subzero cold up to temperatures in the twenties, mirrors a somewhat slower shift in Bristol Bay’s weather over the next few days. Thoman said that since the end of December a cold air mass has been hovering over much of the state, centered over Southwest Alaska. Now, the storm tract is shifting. It is predicted to move through the western Aleutians and into the western and central Bering Sea. Bristol Bay will see several weather fronts move through over the next week.

“At this point, none of them look to be terribly strong, but it will mean we are out of that deep arctic cold and into a more changeable weather regime with precipitation with the fronts,” he said.

That could be followed by colder weather, but it likely won’t be near the subzero temperatures of the past few weeks. 

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