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Anchorage, AK

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Discussion

Seasonal snowfall at the Anchorage International Airport is 70.6 inches based on 59 years of climatology ending in 2002. Based on the 30-year running climatology (1981 to 2010) the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport receives 74.5 inches, with 78.9 inches at the Elmendorf Air Force Base, and 82.1 inches at the National Weather Service Forecast Office. The snowiest season on record at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is 134.5 inches set in Winter 2011-2012.

Snowfall potential in Anchorage is limited by the Kenai Mountains to the south and the Chugach Mountains to the east. These mountains block much of the Pacific moisture which is condensed as it rises up the mountain slopes. Downslope winds off these mountains, as well as off the Talkeetna Mountains to the north and the Alaska Range from north to west, cause the air to warm and dry which further erodes precipitation. In spite of the inhibiting terrain influences, heavy snowfalls can still occur. A case study listed in the references section below examines a unique storm which dumped heavy snow, locally in excess of 24 inches, in Anchorage. The article notes that cold air was flowing into Anchorage and the Cook Inlet region due to low-level winds from the east out of the mountains. The cold air appears to have acted as "effective terrain" to prevent the warmer, less dense Pacific air from flowing down the mountains from the south and southeast. The article's observation is interesting since the flow of air down the mountains usually produces enough drying to reduce precipitation intensity.

Research and case study references

The St. Patricks Day Snowstorm, 2002, Anchorage, Alaska - Joel Curtis, John Papineau, Carven Scott, Weather Forecast Office, Anchorage, Alaska; Kent Johnson, Meteorological Service of Canada

Climate information references

Monthly and Annual Snowfall for Alaska towns - Alaska Climate Research Center

Local Climatological Data - National Weather Service Forecast Office, Anchorage, AK

Anchorage Snowfall Records - National Weather Service Forecast Office, Anchorage, AK