Denali Climate and Weather Monitoring

By Pam Sousanes (last updated April, 2016)
a climate station stands amidst fall-colored tundra

NPS Photo

Climate Monitoring

Climate is one of the critical vital signs used to monitor long-term change across the park landscape as part of the Central Alaska Inventory and Monitoring Network. There are 17 climate/weather/snow monitoring stations in addition to the park headquarters site that provide information on temperature and precipitation patterns across the park. Data are used to support other natural resource programs including wildlife distribution and abundance, avian productivity, vegetation studies, stream surveys, as well as input for practical management issues such as construction projects, road work, and aviation safety.

Most of these stations record air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, solar radiation, precipitation, snow depth, and soil temperatures. Annual data reports and seasonal weather summaries are available from the Central Alaska Network website. Weather data and data analysis tools are available for most of these stations from the Western Regional Climate Center (WRCC) and Mesowest websites.

Weather Monitoring at Park Headquarters

Weather observations have been taken at a station at park headquarters since 1925. This is one of the few sites in the state with such a long and valuable record. This site is used to place current weather observations into context by comparing them to “normal” conditions. Normal is defined as the average climate over a 30-year period. The latest normal period is 1981-2010 (they are updated every 10 years). The entire 88 year record is used to identify the extremes.

  Denali Headquarters Average Monthly Temperature Denali Headquarters Average Monthly Precipitation
 

2014

2015

1981-2010 Average

2014

2015

1981-2010 Average

January 22.9 5.2 3.1 0.9 0.75 .63
February 0.7 9.8 7.6 0.41 0.08 0.54
March 15.2 17.0 13.4 0.27 0.25 0.39
April 28.9 31.4 27.9 0.01 1.06 0.4
May 45.1 47.8 42.8 0.48 0.42 0.87
June 49.1 54.0 52.8 3.66 2.46 2.15
July 53.2 54.4 55.6 4.61 6.18 3.22
August 51.8 49.2 50.6 2.31 5.16 2.71
September 41.4 36.9 40.4 2.25 3.91 1.7
October 19.5 30.7 22.9 0.45 0.76 0.78
November 18.9 12.4 8.9 0.05 2.06 0.75
December 16.2 5.1 6.9 0.29 0.24 0.92
Yearly Average 30.2

29.5

27.8 15.69

23.33

15.06

 


2015 Weather Summary:

It was another interesting year for weather. The average annual air temperature was 29.5° F, 1.8°F warmer than normal and the 19th warmest year on record. The total precipitation for the year was 23.33 inches, which is 8.27 inches more than normal! Total snowfall for the 2014-2015 winter season was a meager 44.6 inches, normal is 76.8 inches (Please note that the snowfall season if from July 1 through June 30, so the 2014-2015 season does not include the abundant snowfall recorded in fall of 2015).

Winter of 2014-2015 was warmer and drier than normal, with the average seasonal temperature 4.5°F above normal. Snowfall totals were low and the total precipitation for the winter was only 54% of normal. Spring of 2015 was warm and dry in Denali, with temperatures in April and May mostly at or above normal. The summer of 2015 was wet! It was the third wettest summer on record. A total of 13.80 inches of rain fell between June 1 and August 31. Temperatures in June were above normal, but cooled in July and August. Overall the average summer temperature was 0.5°F cooler than normal.

The fall started out cool and wet; it was 3.5°F cooler than normal with precipitation totals that were 230% of normal. A total of 23.3 inches of snow fell during the month. October was warm; 7.8°F warmer than normal. Precipitation was near normal with both snow and rain falling during the month. It was the 6th snowiest November on record with a total of 32.6 inches of snow recorded during the month. Temperatures were warm throughout the month with a monthly average temperature that was 3.5°F above normal. Overall, fall 2015 was the 4th snowiest (total snowfall) and 5th wettest (rain and melted snow)on record. A total of 64.3 inches of snow fell between September and November! The average monthly temperature for December was 5.1°F, 1.8°F cooler than normal and unlike November it was dry, with only 2.9 inches of snow falling (= 0.24 inches of total precipitation), making it the 9th driest December on record.

2015 temperature and precipitation data from Denali Park Headquarters:

Temperature

  • Maximum temperature 83° F recorded on July 7
  • Minimum temperature -36°F on February 8
  • Mean annual air temperature 29.5°F (1981-2010 normal is 27.7°F)
  • Departure from normal was +1.8

Precipitation

  • Total Precipitation 23.33 inches
  • Departure from Normal +8.27 inches
  • Max. 24 hr precipitation 1.12 inches on July 19
  • Total Snowfall 44.6 in. (7/1 to 6/30)
  • Departure from normal -32.2 inches
  • Maximum 24 hr snowfall 8.2 inches on Jan. 24

2014 Weather Summary:

The average annual air temperature was 30.2° F, 2.4°F warmer than normal and the 8th warmest year on record. The total precipitation for the year was 15.7 inches, which is 0.63 inches more than normal. Total snowfall for the 2013-2014 winter season was a meager 54.3 inches, normal is 76.8 inches.

January 2014 came in with a roar…the average temperature of 22.9 °F was almost 20 degrees warmer than average. This ranked as the 4th warmest January on record. On January 26th the high temperature hit 52 °F which set a new record daily high for January at this site, breaking the January 7th value of 51 °F from 1961. The temperatures cooled again in February with a monthly average temperature of 0.7 °F, almost 7 degrees colder than normal. Spring of 2014 was warm and dry in Denali, but transitioned into a cool wet summer – the average summer temperature was 51.4° F, which is 1.6° F cooler than normal. June temperatures were much cooler than normal; the average monthly temperature of 49.1° F was 3.7° F colder than normal. It warmed up again in the fall – the average fall temperature was 26.6° F, which is 2.5° F warmer than normal. November was warm and dry. The monthly average temperature was 18.9° F, 10°F warmer than normal and the warmest November since 2002. The average monthly temperature for December was 16.2°F, 9.3°F warmer than normal and the ninth warmest December in 88 years.

Below, are summaries of the 2014 climate data for temperature and precipitation collected at Park Headquarters, and compared with the 1981-2010 normal period.

2014 temperature and precipitation data from Denali Park Headquarters:

Temperature

  • Maximum temperature 80° F recorded on July 7
  • Minimum temperature -27°F on February 14
  • Mean annual air temperature 30.2°F (1981-2010 normal is 27.8°F)

Precipitation

  • Total Precipitation 15.69 inches
  • Departure from Normal +0.63 inches
  • Max. 24 hr precipitation 1.50 inches on June 26
  • Total Snowfall 54.3 in. (7/1 to 6/30)
  • Departure from normal -22.5 inches
  • Maximum 24 hr snowfall 7.6 inches on Jan. 19

More Information: