It was a hard winter, and snow is still on the ground up that way, but the official temperature in Fairbanks reached 82 on Sunday, marking the first time that it had reached 80 before Philadelphia in the periods of record.
“It looks like we beat you to it,” Chris Cox, a National Weather Service meteorologist in the Fairbanks office, said on a weekend that brought a record chill to Philadelphia.
As warm as it was in Fairbanks, it fell shy of the daily record, 84, set during quite an incredibly toasty spell in 1995. It had hit 80 on the ninth that year, the earliest such reading in records that go back to 1909, and 88 on the 11th.
Philadelphia, whose records date to the 1870s, has had 80 readings as early as March 8. It has never had to wait longer than May 20 for one, and it won’t this year if the forecasts calling for highs in the low 80s on Friday hold up.
Not coincidentally, as Philadelphia awaits a major warmup, Fairbanks is anticipating a major cool-down, said Cox, as a persistent pattern that has exported Arctic air to the Eastern United States relents.
Unusual warmth in Fairbanks often means unusual chill here and vice versa. Philadelphia’s high of 49 on Saturday, which tied the record-low maximum for the date, was 23 degrees below normal. Fairbanks’ high of 82 Sunday was 23 degrees above normal.
For most of the winter, the polar vortex swirled in the high latitudes, damming cold air and depriving the East of snow. Fairbanks had 84.6 inches of snow during the winter, 20 inches more than normal — and 84.3 inches more than Philadelphia.
With all that snow, the recent warmth set off both flood advisories for rapidly melting mountain snows and a “red flag” alert for fire danger.
Meanwhile, Fairbanks residents have just experienced an annual Oz moment, the so-called green up, Cox said. “This morning we got up and we had leaves on the trees.” Unlike around here where the leaf-unfolding season can last for weeks, up there it can last a matter of hours, he said.
“It’s been a long, protracted winter,” Cox said. “When it decided to go, it went.”