In this photo taken on Sunday, 28 February 2016, Fur Rondy mushers drive their dog teams down a ribbon of snow that was placed on 4th Avenue in a snowless downtown Anchorage for the annual winter festival event. In the 2015-2016 season, Alaska had the second-warmest December through February of the last century, and many parts of the state, including Anchorage, are seeing their warmest winters ever. Photo: Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News

By William Yardley and Kyle Hopkins
15 March 2016

NOME, Alaska (Los Angeles Times) – The winters keep getting warmer. The racers keep getting faster.

When Dallas Seavey and his team of sled dogs arrived in this remote old gold rush town on the Bering Sea shortly after 2 a.m. on Tuesday, Seavey celebrated his fourth victory in just five years in the nearly 1,000-mile sprint across the Alaska wilderness that the world knows as the Iditarod dog sled race. At eight days, 11 hours, 20 minutes and 16 seconds, it was the fastest time in Iditarod history — and the second time Seavey set a course record on his way to victory.

Yet race times are not the only records being broken here this year.

Alaska just completed its second-warmest December-February of the last century, and many parts of the state, including Anchorage, the largest city, are seeing their warmest winters ever recorded. The trendline of temperatures dips now and then, but the momentum is steadily heading upward.

“It’s unequivocal,” said Rick Thoman, the National Weather Service’s climate science and services manager for Alaska. “Winters in Alaska are not as cold as they used to be. The cold winters now are in line with the average winters of the 1950s.” […]

This year, the ceremonial start of the race in Anchorage was complicated by the fact there was very little snow in the city. That led race organizers to shorten the event and haul snow in by train, only to decide not to use it because it was mixed with too much debris, the race’s executive officer, Stan Hooley, said Monday in Nome. It helped that it happened to snow in Anchorage the day before the ceremony.

“I'm not sure winter ever came to south-central Alaska,” Hooley said. [more]

In the Iditarod, climate change makes it a year for the record books

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