FAIRBANKS, Alaska- With millions of Americans in the Lower 48 on heat alert throughout the weekend, parts of The Final Frontier are bracing for the region’s first major snowfall of the season.
The combination of cooler air, lots of humidity and an approaching storm system means higher elevations could see several inches of snow.
A winter storm warning has been issued for northeastern portions of the Brooks Range, where meteorologists warn more than 8 inches of snowfall is possible above an elevation of 3,000 feet.
The National Weather Service says snow conditions could make travel on the Dalton Highway via Atigun Pass difficult.
The highway is one of the main thoroughfares in Alaska’s North Slope, where many major oil production operations are located.
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Although snowfall can occur year-round, the NWS office in Fairbanks says the area is generally snow-free in the heart of summer.
Since 2005, the NWS has issued only a dozen winter storm warnings during the meteorological summer.
Frozen precipitation is expected to remain mostly above 2,000 feet, which means communities at lower elevations, where temperatures are warmer, will see rain and no accumulation.
This includes the northernmost town of Utqiaġvik, where the sun recently set for the first time in 83 days.
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The state’s most populous city, Anchorage, is more than 300 miles south of the Brooks Range and typically doesn’t see its first measurable snowfall until around October 15.
While frozen precipitation is still weeks away for most of Alaska, the climate outlook indicates that the winter could be even colder than average for the state.
La Niña is expected to control global weather patterns for a third winter, meaning all eyes will be on the polar jet stream.