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Aleutian Region Breaks 95-Year Records For July Heat, Rainfall

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Last month marked the hottest, driest July in the Aleutian Islands in 95 years.

The conditions matched the larger trend across Alaska, which experienced below-average rainfall and record-breaking heat.  

While the Lower 48 posted significantly above-average temperatures in July, it was Alaska's warmest month on record since 1925,  according to a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

"This is really in keeping with what we've seen across the state over the last half decade," said Rick Thoman, a climate scientist with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The Aleutian Islands were no exception to the trend. The region experienced record-breaking heat and record-dry conditions.

"This was the driest July in 95 years in the Aleutian region there, which includes basically from False Pass westward, as well as the Pribilof Islands," said Thoman.

The Aleutians had 1.53 inches of rainfall, nearly two inches below the region's long-term average. It also experienced an average maximum temperature of 58.8 degrees Fahrenheit, almost five degrees above the long-term average.  

Credit National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Climatologists are still looking into the implications of all the hot, dry weather. But Thoman said it could hurt water quality in streams, which would affect salmon and other species the region relies on for subsistence and commercial fishing. 

Whatever the immediate impacts may be, he said the long-term trend for ocean temperatures is only going up.

"The oceans all around the state — the Gulf of Alaska, the North Pacific, the Bering Sea, and then north of the Bering Strait in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas — temperatures are significantly warmer than normal," he said. "And when they're well above normal, like they are this year, that is really an important factor for the Aleutian climate."

Despite dry and warm conditions last month, Thoman said the Aleutians could see heavy rainfall later this year. As the oceans warm, he said there's more water evaporating into the atmosphere, which means more water for fall storms.

Hope McKenney is a public radio news director, reporter, producer and host based in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska.
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