Alaska Terrestrial and Marine Climate Trends, 1957-2021

Some of the largest climatic changes in the Arctic have been observed in Alaska and the surrounding marginal seas. Near-surface air temperature (T2m), precipitation (P), snowfall, and sea ice changes have been previously documented, often in disparate studies. Here, we provide an updated, long-term trend analysis (1957–2021; n = 65 years) of such parameters in ERA5, NOAA U.S. Climate Gridded Dataset (NClimGrid), NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) Alaska climate division, and composite sea ice products preceding the upcoming Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5) and other near-future climate reports. In the past half century, annual T2m has broadly increased across Alaska, and during winter, spring, and autumn on the North Slope and North Panhandle (T2m > 0.50°C decade−1). Precipitation has also increased across climate divisions and appears strongly interrelated with temperature–sea ice feedbacks on the North Slope, specifically with increased (decreased) open water (sea ice extent). Snowfall equivalent (SFE) has decreased in autumn and spring, perhaps aligned with a regime transition of snow to rain, while winter SFE has broadly increased across the state. Sea ice decline and melt-season lengthening also have a pronounced signal around Alaska, with the largest trends in these parameters found in the Beaufort Sea. Alaska’s climatic changes are also placed in context against regional and contiguous U.S. air temperature trends and show ∼50% greater warming in Alaska relative to the lower-48 states. Alaska T2m increases also exceed those of any contiguous U.S. subregion, positioning Alaska at the forefront of U.S. climate warming.


Ballinger TJ, Bhatt US, Bieniek PA, Brettschneider B, Lader RT, Littell JS, Thoman RL, Waigl CF, Walsh JE, Webster MA. 2023. Alaska Terrestrial and Marine Climate Trends, 1957-2021. Journal of Climate. 36-13: 4375-4391. DOI: