How do the excessively warm sea surface conditions of 2013-16 compare to the past? (1926)

Since mid-2013 Alaska has been excessively warm, and this has been most emphatically the case over the western Gulf of Alaska, Alaska Peninsula and the Bering Sea regions. But how does this compare to the past?

For the first half of the 20th century, 1926 stands out as the warmest calendar year in Alaska.  This is apparent when looking at the available station data as well as global surface temperature analyses. There were a rather small number of places in Alaska that had climate observations made in 1926 and still are. The core of the current climate observation network in Alaska was actually established during World War II, and there remain climate observations dating from the 1940s and some prior data that are not available in digitized form from the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). As a result, these observations are overlooked and unused in many modern analyses and databases that require data in digital formats. The good news is, those observations were made and published at the time, and scans of most of the original paper copies are available.

Here’s a plot of the difference in monthly average temperatures between the first 10 months of this year and 1926 for three southern Alaska locations using these tabulated and scanned data. Both St. Paul and Dutch Harbor have been warmer every month this year (through October) as compared to 1926, while Kodiak is more of a mixed bag. This pattern is consistent with the main storm track in 1926 being a bit farther east than observed in 2016.

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