Extreme Weather Events on the Last Frontier: Meteorological Analyses and Societal Impacts

Monday, 15 December 2014
Lauren Zuromski, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, United States, John E Walsh, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, United States and Richard Thoman, National Weather Service Alaska Region, Environmental and Scientific Services Division, Fairbanks, AK, United States
The National Weather Service lacks a comprehensive compilation of major weather events in Alaska. Creating a repository of the effects of past storms and other extreme weather events on society, together with documentation of the meteorological evolution of the events, will facilitate the NWS and other government agencies to analyze this data. Such analysis will improve their strategies, such as sharpening local and state responses to extreme weather and enhancing forecasts for the events, to create a more weather-ready society in Alaska. This research examines six high-impact weather events in Alaska, ranging in dates from 1974 until 2012. Atmospheric data was gathered from the Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL)’s 6-Hour National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) and National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Data Reanalysis Composites and from 3-Hour NCEP North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) Composites. Reanalysis composites of sea-level pressure, temperature, geopotential height, and vector wind allowed for the storms to be tracked and for weather pattern anomalies to be recognized. Societal impacts were investigated by using the National Climactic Data Center (NCDC)’s online Storm Events Database and by utilizing microfilms of Alaskan newspapers detailing the events. Synthesizing facts from NCDC and newspapers, along with incorporating meteorological knowledge from the atmospheric reanalysis composites, summaries of the events could then be created. In the future, this research will be continued to include a broader range of high-impact Alaskan weather events. This work will further serve as a basis for analysis for decision-makers to better plan for extreme events and their aftermath. The completed research, though a small portion of the anticipated project, provides a template for future data assimilation, and it initiates the efforts towards a more weather-prepared Alaska.