Links for Alaska Climate
To the atmospheric scientist, climate and weather are different entities. Wikipedia says:
Climate encompasses the statistics of temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, rainfall, atmospheric particle count and other meteorological elements in a given region over long periods of time. Climate can be contrasted to weather, which is the present condition of these same elements and their variations over periods up to two weeks.
Other authorities may offer somewhat different intrepretations, especially regarding time scales. However, the above is a good working definition for sorting out climate vs. weather. This page contains links to a number of sites which contain data and/or information on Alaska climate. If you are looking for data/information on a shorter orless historic time scale than climate might suggest, take a look at the Weather Links page on this site.
Table of Contents
- Western Region Climate Center
- National Data Buoy Center
- National Weather Service
- Alaska Ocean Observing System
Western Region Climate Center
The Western Region Climate Center (WRCC), housed at the Desert Research Institute (DRI), is a great source of Alaska climate data not available at the National Climate Data Center (NCDC). (For information on NCDC and its climate data products go here.)
Remote Automated Weather System (RAWS)
A TYPICAL RAWS PLATFORM
The Remote Automated Weather System (RAWS) is designed to be a low-power weather observation system that can be rapidly deployed in support of fire-fighting efforts. Some RAWS platforms are deployed on an as-needed incident-specific basis. Others are permanent sites with several years of data.
RAWS data is rather unique in many ways. First, many RAWS sites are in very remote regions — well off the power grid and highway system, where climate/weather data is most scarce. Further, most sites incorporate some form of precipitation gauging and solar radiation measurements.
The WRCC is the custodian of the RAWS data. The page for the RAWS data is currently http://www.raws.dri.edu/index.html. Here find a descriptive overview and a specifications document. (Unfortunately the WRCC RAWS pages are currently under construction and have some dead links). The Alaska RAWS page is currently: http://www.raws.dri.edu/akF.html. This page shows LOTS of sites. Unfortunately, many have a very short period of observation and for most stations the record tends to be spotty. Also, there is a charge for data that is more than 30 days old
The page has a number of tabular and graphic options, including output in several spreadsheet-friendly and standardized data formats for the raw hourly data (DATA LISTER button). Note that there is a charge for data more than 30 days old.
National Park Service Alaska RAWS
The National Park Service (NPS) also maintains RAWS networks in several national parks in Alaska. While these sites apparently are incorporated into the Alaska RAWS page, there is an NPS-specific portal to their data on the WRCC site: http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/NPS.html, with a very helpful map interface.
North American Freezing Level Tracker
The web page for the North American Freezing Level Tracker states:
This analysis tool allows one to track through time the height of the freezing level (0 C or 32 F) above sea level. Freezing level has important effects on hydrology in mountain environments. This level affects 1) the elevation of the rain/snow line, 2) whether precipitation at a specified level falls as rain or as snow, 3) whether the ground is frozen or thawed when the first autumn snows fall, 4) the efficiency of snowpack accumulation through the winter months, 4) the internal temperature and rate of "ripening" and melting of the snowpack in the spring, and 6) the length of the snow free season at different elevations. Freezing level also affects ecological function through biological growth rates (both plants and animals) at different elevations. Other temperature thresholds of interest are available (10 C, 20 C, 30 C / 50 F, 68 F, 86 F) as well. These temperatures can be substituted for the term "freezing level" below.
This is an interesting, if highly-specialized, tool with a very nice "Google Map" interface. Alaska does not initially appear on the map, but you can navigate to it..
La Nina, El Nino effects on western US
This page contains a great collection of links relating to El Nino and related topics— La Nina, El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI). A good place to get some basic (and not so basic) questions answered.
National Data Buoy Center
NOAA's National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) web page states:
NDBC provides comprehensive, reliable systems and marine observations to support the missions of the National Weather Service (NWS) and NOAA, promote public safety, and satisfy the future needs of our customers.
As implied by its name, NDBC operates a buoy/C-MAN network in the coastal regions surrounding the US. The oceanographic/atmospheric sensors vary from one platform to the next, but most measure the traditional meteorological variables. The moored buoy details are described here and the C-MAN sensor platforms are described here.
It is apparent by the zooming in on the "Google Map" interface on the home page that NDBC has dozens of observing platforms in Alaskan waters. Clicking on a site pops up a window showing the current conditions and, as well, links to station details/metadata and historical data.
Due to the operational nature of the data (in support of NWS) it is typically of high quality. Unfortunately, Alaska waters and weather are hard on moored bouys, especially the high winds and icing that accompany winter storms. As a result there are often data drop-outs during winter months until scheduled maintenence or a ship of opportunity occurs.
National Weather Service
Though the NWS's main emphasis is much more on weather prediction than on climate, they still have a lot to do with climate data. Ultimately they are responsible for the making of almost all the surface observations that are archivedby NCDC. The primary NWS websites for Alaska are:
- ALASKA REGIONAL HEADQUARTERS
- ANCHORAGE FORECAST OFFICE
- JUNEAU FORECAST OFFICE
- FAIRBANKS FORECAST OFFICE
CLIMATE SECTION FROM NWS WEBPAGE
Each of these sites presents different climate data, much of it specific to their area of responsibility, while the Alaska Regional Headquarters site takes a more statewide view. Not surprisingly, the forecast offices each have a somewhat different ways of presenting their climate data offerings.
All the Alaska NWS sites have a very similar "corporate" look which (currently) has a climate section on the side bar that looks like the one on the left. (This one is from the Anchorage homepage). However, some have special features as discussed below.
The climate section of the PAFA web site has a lot to offer. Of particular note is the link "PAFC Climate". This is a good place to go for more recent climate data for southern Alaska locations. At the top of this page is a group of pull-down menus:
"Select a Site", "month" and "year".
Select a Site menu selects from several significant southern Alaskan sites as well as a few others state wide. After selecting the
year, hit the
GO button. Displayed are observed daily high/low temperatures and site-specific temperature records for the given month. At the bottom half of the display are daily precipitation, snowfall, and accumulated precipitation, as well as precipitation normals for the day.
Climate bar on the
Juneau NWS home page has an interesting link called
"AK Interative Database". Navigating to this link reveals a nice Google-Map interface showing a number of climate observation sites.
Clicking on one of the icons (color-coordinated by site operator) pops up a text balloon with metadata about the targeted site. A form to the right of the map provides a form for requesting a month's data or for querying the data base for extreme events (e.g., maximum temperatures). Though the site opens up on a map of SE Alaska, it is possible to navigate all over the state to retrieve data, though the site density is significantly lower.
Alaska Ocean Observing System
the Alaska Ocean Observing System (AOOS) is a relatively new player in the Alaska climate data business, and as its name implies, AOOS's focus in marine and shoreline information. The AOOS home page states:
AOOS represents a network of critical ocean and coastal observations, data and information products that aid our understanding of the status of Alaska's marine ecosystem and allow stakeholders to make better decisions about their use of the marine environment.
AOOS is now rebuilding its web site, so its data offerings are currently in flux. When fully fleshed out, his website will provide a wealth of information concerning ocean and shoreline climate. And while its emphasis is on marine data, it will inevitably provide a good collection of terrestrial data as well.
THE FINE PRINT
The data sources listed on this website are provided as a service to our clients. Their listing on no way implies an endorsement of their services or quality and/or validity of their data. The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) is the only provider of data that is certifiable. In many cases, the agencies and data providers listed herein are not the initial or primary collectors of the data and are not responsible for the provenance of the data they provide.
This web site is by no means intended to be an exhaustive collection of Alaska climate data. If you are aware of a provider of Alaska climate data, private or public, that you feel should be mentioned this site, please Contact Us with the pertinent information and we will include it in our offerings.