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Alaskans replace jackets with sunscreen during long-term heatwave

Anchorage saw a record temperature of 32.2C on Thursday.

People swim in Goose Lake, Anchorage, amid high temperatures (Mark Thiessen/AP)
People swim in Goose Lake, Anchorage, amid high temperatures (Mark Thiessen/AP)

Alaskans who are more used to wearing jackets in the summer have swapped them for sunscreen and parasols amid a prolonged heatwave.

Anchorage and other cities in the state have endured a fifth week of above-normal temperatures, including a record high of 32.2C (90F) at Anchorage airport on Thursday.

That was well above the city’s previous high of 29.44C (85F).

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The Hayes family fish on the banks of Cheney Lake in Anchorage (Anne Raup/Anchorage Daily News/AP)

Three other Alaskan locations, Kenai, Palmer and King Salmon, set or tied all-time high temperature records on Thursday.

National Weather Service meteorologist Bob Clay said a high pressure ridge over much of south-central Alaska is strengthening and responsible for the high temperatures.

Anchorage’s average high temperature for July 4 is 23.8C (75F).

The city experienced its wettest May ever and was then warmer than normal every day in June, National Weather Service meteorologist Michelle McAuley said.

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A man shields his head and the child he is holding from the sun with an umbrella at Goose Lake in Anchorage (Mark Thiessen/AP)

Manny Acuna, who moved to the city nine years ago, said: “My home doesn’t have air conditioning like most homes here in Anchorage, and it’s pretty miserable.

“That’s a lot coming from me because I’m originally from Las Vegas.”

Shawn King has lived his entire 31 years in Anchorage and he said he has never seen a stretch of similar hot weather.

He used the occasion to take his four-year-old daughter Tessa fishing for the first time on the dock of Jewel Lake.

Lucy Davidson took her grandchildren to Goose Lake to cool off.

She said she bought a portable air conditioner at a garage sale six years ago. It has not been used at all some summers, but it has been getting a workout lately.

“That thing has been a blessing,” she said. “It stays on non-stop.”

Visitors to the city braced for cooler temperatures were surprised to find out they would not need parkas.

“We didn’t pack clothes for this,” said Judy Zickmund, who arrived in Anchorage after stepping off a cruise ship with her husband David.

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People and their dogs cool off at DeLong Lake, Anchorage (Anne Raup/Anchorage Daily News/AP)

“We had gone on the internet and they said it usually runs about 65-70F (18-21C). But this has been wonderful, coming to Anchorage. The whole cruise was warmer than normal.”

Rick Thoman, a climate specialist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said the record high is both a weather story and part of the ongoing changing environment story.

“These kinds of extreme weather events become much more likely in a warming world,” he said.

High ocean temperatures have played a role in keeping Alaska warm, he added.

“Surface temperatures are above normal everywhere around Alaska.

“The entire Gulf of Alaska, in the Bering Sea, in the Chukchi Sea south of the ice edge, exceptionally warm waters, warmest on record, and of course record-low sea ice extent for this time of year off the north and northwest coasts of the state.”

PA

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