JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Parts of southeast Alaska are experiencing drought conditions following a winter and spring with lackluster snowfall and rain, according to the National Weather Service.
Ketchikan received 11.2 inches (28.5 centimeters) of precipitation in October and 7.6 inches (19.3 centimeters) in November, less than half the normal amounts expected for the rainiest months of the year, the Juneau Empire reported Wednesday.
“This was the most significant drought in the wet season in Southeast Alaska in 40-plus years,” said Aaron Jacobs, a weather service hydrologist.
The area’s conditions during the winter were unusual enough that the weather service had struggled to determine what constitutes a drought in the state, said Rick Thoman, a weather service climate specialist.
“This is something that we haven’t thought of a lot in Alaska, at least on the weather service side,” Thoman said.
An indicator in determining droughts is how much precipitation is expected in a given period compared to how much actually fell.
“It’s all relative to normal,” Jacobs said. “Eleven inches in a month - that’s a year’s worth for Fairbanks, but that is below normal for Ketchikan in the wet season.”
Conditions returned closer to normal in late April, but locations in southeast Alaska remain with abnormally dry conditions, according to officials.
Ketchikan had 82 percent of its normal precipitation since October. Sitka and Haines are running about 30 percent short of their averages.
Officials are not turning their attention to how the drought could affect fisheries, Jacobs said. With a smaller snowpack, less water will be flowing for salmon returning to rivers in the summer.
“That could have dire effects on fisheries,” Jacobs said
Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com
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