After an exceptionally warm January, 2014, created spring-like conditions, including snow melt and avalanches to much of Alaska, early February brought a return of freezing temperatures and wintery conditions to eastern Alaska and the western Yukon Territory. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite flew over the region on February 4, and captured this crisp, clear true-color image of a sunny winter day.
Driven by a persistent ridge of high pressure off the Pacific Coast, the last half of January was reported as one of the warmest winter periods in Alaska history, with temperatures as much as 40°F (22°C) above normal on some days, especially in the western and central portions of the state. The all-time warmest January temperature ever observed in Alaska was tied on January 27 when the temperature peaked at 62°F (16.7°C) at Port Alsworth. On that same day, Whitehorse, Canada, which sits near the far southeastern edge of this image, recorded a high of 27°F (-4.4 °C) - well above the average of 4°F (-15.5°C) for that day.
By February 4, the day this image was captured, temperatures had dipped to a high of -1°F (- 18°C), which was below the average high of 9°F (-12.7°C) for that day. Lows registered a “very cold” -19°F (-28.3°C), according to Accuweather.com.
Even though temperatures were chilly, areas of green were visible through the snowpack across the region, especially where deep green boreal forest covers the land and in valleys near rivers. In southeastern Alaska, the Tanana River appears white and frozen although the river valley, as it exits the Alaska Range, is green. Further north, the Yukon River remains frozen. Heavy snow also covers the mountain ranges in the inland Yukon Territory, Canada.