Fairbanks snowfall above average, but not near record-breaking
Sam Friedman, email@example.com|8 hours ago
FAIRBANKS - Based on the snowfall numbers - and ignoring the height of the piled-up snow cross town - it hasn't been a particularly snowy winter in Alaska's second-largest city.
Through the end of February, 78.4 inches of snow had fallen at Fairbanks International Airport this winter.
The snowfall total this year is above average but far from a record.
So far, this is the 10th snowiest winter to date, based on snow accumulation totals, said Rick Thoman, Alaska climate science and services manager with the National Weather Service in Fairbanks.
This winter is notable because most of the snow has fallen in the past three months, Thoman said. It also stands out because the Interior's snow was concentrated in the Fairbanks area.
In November, Fairbanks was well below average for snowfall. The next three months more than made up for it, with big storms in late December and this week.
If only December, January and February are considered, this year is the fourth snowiest in Fairbanks weather history, Thoman said.
It feels particularly snowy because last year was the driest year on record for that three-month period. Only 2.5 inches of snow fell between December and February last year. This year, 73.2 inches fell the past three months.
With so much snow in such a short period, the snowpack has built up higher this year than any recent year. The snow depth measured 34 inches Monday, the highest point of the season.
"That's the highest snow depth at the airport since April of 1993, so it's been a while," Thoman said.
But the snowpack depth isn't particularly high in the larger scope of the Golden Heart City's weather records.
The snow reached 62 inches in 1934, the highest year on record.
Snow depth measurements are shorter than snowfall measurements because snow compacts and melts over time, shrinking the height of the snowpack.
Elsewhere in the Interior, the snowpack is considerably less than in Fairbanks this year.
In Tanana, west of Fairbanks, the snow depth measured 22 inches as of Wednesday. It measured 9 inches in Northway, off the Alaska Highway near the Canada border, and 14 inches in McGrath, a town in the western Interior that's usually on the Iditarod trail on odd-numbered years.
"They moved the Iditarod restart and we heard, 'Oh they shouldn't have moved it; we got all this snow,'" Thoman said. "But they didn't get very much snow last week and the over the weekend in the area, that was the problem - Rainy Pass to Farewell Burn."
In Fairbanks, the weight of this year's snowpack's pressure slightly less than 30 pounds per square foot. This measurement helps to determine when to shovel snow off roofs to prevent collapses. Buildings built inside the city of Fairbanks since the mid-1990s are required to have roofs that can withstand 50 pounds per square foot. There aren't building codes outside the city, so the strengths of roofs vary.
Contact Outdoors Editor Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.