If you live in states like Florida, Texas or Arizona, 80 degrees in June sounds balmy. If you live in Anchorage, Alaska by contrast — a city at nearly the same latitudes as Reykjavík (Iceland), Lillehammer (Norway) and most of Siberian Russia — summertime highs in the 80s may sound a bit like that Twilight Zone episode where the sun’s on its merry way to swallowing the Earth.
The average temperature for Alaska’s coastal areas this time of year, near summer solstice when daylight in the 49th state is near constant, runs in the 60s, with highs topping out in the 70s (Alaska’s interior tends to run warmer than its coastal areas). But in recent days, temps have soared to record highs well into the 80s, and in some spots, higher still.
Take Anchorage, technically the northernmost city in the United States: after dealing with an unusually cold spring and snowfall into May, Alaska’s most populous city with nearly 300,000 residents is smoldering at temperatures up to 20 degrees Fahrenheit above normal, reports Reuters, leading to runs on stores for fans and swimwear.
The heat’s impacting the local fauna, too, prompting surprise appearances by moose looking to cool off near lawn sprinklers and kiddie pools as well as pet reptiles — usually held in warm indoor areas — that Reuters reports “are making rare public appearances,” including unwanted forays into public parks.
“We don’t have a sign that says ‘No Snakes’,” said Doreen Hernandez, an aquatic superintendent at one of Anchorage’s few outdoor swimming pools, referring to various pets she’s had to kick out, including someone’s iguana named “Godzilla.”
The heat wave appears to be stoking wildfires and floods, too, causing pieces of ice to break off and jam up mountain rivers and triggering lightning-spawned fires spreading due to dry brush.
What’s behind Alaska’s record-breaking heat wave? A rapid shift in wind patterns that’s pulled in air from the south and southeast, say meteorologists, who note the high pressure system currently baking Alaskan residents is shifting, and that cooler temperatures should finally be on the way after the weekend.