Whoa! Alaska Is Hotter Than NYC. Here's Why.

Lifeguard Luke Orot at Jewel Lake on July 4, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska, which is bracing for record-warm temperatures.
Lifeguard Luke Orot at Jewel Lake on July 4, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska, which is bracing for record-warm temperatures. (Image credit: Lance King/Getty Images)

For the first time in recorded history, Anchorage, Alaska, reached 90 degrees F (32 degrees Celsius).

That sweltering temperature, recorded yesterday (July 4), meant that the normally snowbound city, which is just 370 miles (595 kilometers) from the Arctic Circle, was hotter than New York City. (NYC hit 85 F yesterday, according to timeanddate.com.)

The previous record-breaking temperature in Anchorage was 85 F (29 C), which occurred June 14, 1969, according to KTUU, an Anchorage broadcast station affiliated with NBC News. Yesterday's 90 F (32 C) was recorded at Merrill Field station in Anchorage, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). [On Ice: Stunning Images of Canadian Arctic]

The cause of the sweltering weather in Alaska? An intense high-pressure system, which the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang termed a "heat dome," has parked itself over the region. The heat is not expected to let up for days, with the weather gang forecasting above-normal temperatures through July 8.

From a broader perspective, above-average temperatures in Alaska are partly due to a loss of sea ice in the Arctic and the concurrent ocean warming there, Rick Thoman, a climate specialist with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, told France's AFP in March. At the time, Alaska was experiencing two months of record-shattering temperatures.

Climate change is having disproportionate effects in the Arctic, which is heating up twice as fast as the rest of Earth, Live Science previously reported. That's because of a positive feedback loop there: Sea ice and snow reflect a lot of the sun's radiation back into the atmosphere. But as more of those reflective surfaces melt to reveal the darker (light-absorbing) water beneath, more heat gets locked into the water rather than bouncing back to space, making it hotter … and causing more melt and more warming.

Originally published on Live Science.

Jeanna Bryner
Live Science Editor-in-Chief

Jeanna served as editor-in-chief of Live Science. Previously, she was an assistant editor at Scholastic's Science World magazine. Jeanna has an English degree from Salisbury University, a master's degree in biogeochemistry and environmental sciences from the University of Maryland, and a graduate science journalism degree from New York University. She has worked as a biologist in Florida, where she monitored wetlands and did field surveys for endangered species. She also received an ocean sciences journalism fellowship from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.