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Warm Alaska Winter Forces Iditarod To Relocate

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Alaska has been basking in well above average temperatures this winter, and it’s having a major and unfortunate impact on the state’s trademark sled race.

The Iditarod sled dog race, a world-famous thousand-mile trek across the largest American state’s desolate and bitterly cold interior that calls itself “the last great race on earth”, was forced to relocate its starting point as a result of a lack of snow in Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city and the race’s traditional starting point.

For just the second time in the race’s 43-year history, the race’s starting point was moved from Willow (about 30 miles north of Anchorage) to Fairbanks, the largest city in Alaska’s vast interior about 350 miles north of Anchorage.

With an average temperature of 24.4º, Anchorage had a top-10 warmest winter in recorded history. Further south, Kodiak Island had its warmest winter ever recorded (average winter temperature: 36.7º), and virtually the entire state saw top-10 warmest winters, including  Juneau (Alaska’s capital city), Fairbanks, and the Iditarod’s finish line location, Nome. Through Sunday, Anchorage has only seen 20.7″ of snow this winter, over three-and-a-half feet (42″) below average for the season.

The good news is that further north, snow is plentiful. Fairbanks received a fresh 6-12″ of snow on Saturday night and into Sunday morning, and the city has seen above-average snowfall through the winter, leading to better conditions there for racers.

A highly-amplified (swervy) jet stream with major dips and arcs has contributed greatly not only to Alaska’s winter warmth and lack of snowfall in the southern portion of the state, but it’s also led to the reverse in the Northeast, with record snowfall in Boston and a bitterly cold winter for much of the eastern third of the lower 48. This pattern is being blamed for the unusual warmth in the 49th state.

The race officially begins on Monday, and it typically takes 10 days to complete.

WeatherNation TV (channel 361 on DirecTV and/or an affiliate near you) features a specific Alaska forecast, and as always, check your Alaska forecast (or anywhere you want!) right here at WeatherNationTV.com.

Meteorologist Chris Bianchi  unnamed-1

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