Endless Winter for Alaska's Mountains This Year

By Samantha Kramer, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
August 06, 2012; 8:38 PM
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Anchorage is bordered by mountains like this one in Chugach State Park, called Flattop Mountain. (AP Photo/Al Grillo)

There aren't many places you can go to in the United States to see snow in August, and usually, even Anchorage, Alaska, isn't one of them.

But the city is still dealing with leftover snow from last winter in its bordering mountain ranges. The all-time record snowfall of 133.6 inches last winter - just over 11 feet - could give Anchorage an endless winter.

It's a unique milestone set off from the records we've been seeing this summer, with many cities reaching all-time high temperatures when the historic heat wave rolled through in June.

The combination of heavy snowfall and a cool spring caused the lingering snow, said United States Department of Agriculture Snow Survey Supervisor Rick McClure. He said that it's unusual to see snow still remaining in some of the mountains that surround Anchorage.

"Most of the time snow melts in the mountains, unless it's a glacier or snowfield," McClure said. "We've had snow in 4,000-feet elevations that usually melts by early June stay until that time in July. It's very rare to see snow in the mountains that close to the solstice."

May, June and July have all seen colder monthly averages, with July making the cut as the seventh-coldest July in history. There were 24 days in May 19 days in June that fell below the average daily temperature.

Adding the record-shattering snowfall into the mix, it's possible the melt of last year's snow could overlap with new snow falls that can occur as early as September. When this happens, glaciers can form by compressing the old snow into ice, although it would take several years of cold springs like this year's for that cycle to occur, McClure said.

While residents and tourists are taking advantage of the snowcapped scenery, it could create problems for wildlife because the ground hasn't greened, making it difficult for some animals to find food, McClure said.


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