Alaskan Blizzards: Patterns and Trends

Authors: Jill Coleman*, Ball State University, Dagmar Budikova, Illinois State University
Topics: Climatology and Meteorology, Hazards, Risks, and Disasters
Keywords: blizzard, alaska, climatology, hazard
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Blizzards are an extreme winter weather hazard that produce significant disruption to transportation networks, loss of socioeconomic productivity, damage to structures, and harm to human health and other organisms. Blowing, drifting and/or falling snow coupled with high winds and extreme low temperatures make blizzards a significant danger that shows significant geographic and temporal variation in occurrence. In the conterminous United States, blizzards are most common in the northern Great Plains with a secondary area in the coastal Northeast; however, blizzard frequency in these regions are significantly less than Alaska. The Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea region has strong mid-latitude cyclones frequently in the cold-season that produce high winds and blowing snow along coastal areas, conditions that are often enhanced by local topography as the storms move inland. Despite the high blizzard activity, research into Alaskan blizzards is sparse.

The National Weather Service (NWS) defines blizzards as areas of considerable falling and/or blowing snow with sustained wind speeds of 35 miles per hour or greater for an extended period of time (3 hours or greater) in which visibility is frequently reduced to less than a quarter of a mile. Using this operational definition, blizzard occurrence by Alaskan NWS weather forecast zones was collected from Storm Data for the 1996/97 through 2017/18 winter seasons (n = 22). This study will present findings on the: 1) blizzard climatology for Alaska; 2) spatiotemporal variability in Alaskan blizzard occurrence; and 3) processes contributing to the observed blizzard patterns through a case-study analysis.

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