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Juneau pays for recent string of warm springs

La Nina is blamed for one of the region's wettest, coolest springs in the last 60 years

Posted: Tuesday, May 09, 2006

One of Juneau's wettest springs on record is all pig slop and no bacon for the owner of Spinnin' Pig Memphis Style BBQ.

"Of course the barbecue business is suffering," Mike Wiley said. "Everyone is complaining about the weather."

Wiley prepares slow-cooked pork in the 12-foot-long area of his log-cabin-style barbecue concession trailer. He also is owner of the downtown Ben Franklin store. At least 16 consecutive days of rain is bad for both of his businesses, he said.

"When it is bad out people want to stay in the cruise ships," Wiley said. "I definitely want the weather to improve."

April 1-May 7 saw the third-wettest recordings for that five-week period at Juneau International Airport since 1943, when record-keeping began, National Weather Service Meteorologist Tom Ainsworth said. This year 7.46 inches of rain was recorded in that stretch, about twice the average, he said. But the unusually cold and wet spring may change soon.

"The long-range weather forecast for the next week indicates a slow but steady change to the weather pattern affecting the Southeast," Ainsworth said. Temperatures should reach into the 50s while rainstorms diminish, he said.

Weather records Since 1943

Average rain total for April 1-May 7: 3.68 inches.

2006 rain recorded April 1-May 7: 7.46 inches.

1999 rain recorded April 1-May 7: 8.3 inches.

One of the wettest years on record was 1999, when Juneau received 49 consecutive days of rain, Ainsworth said. It was the wettest spring on record, with 8.3 inches of rain recorded between April 1 and May 7, he added.

"The fact that the past three springs between 2003 and 2005 were unusually warm and dry may be accentuating how cool and wet this spring feels," Ainsworth said. "Nine of April's 30 daily record-high temperatures were established between 2003 and 2005."

Business is booming for Northern Hot Spots, a tanning salon that sits behind the Nugget Mall.

"We have seen a big increase in customers, but I cannot tell you the exact number because I have been vacationing in warmer places," Sirena Hales said. "People who tan here complain about the weather."

Rafael Soto, originally from Puerto Rico, unloaded supplies for Alaska Marine Trucking on Front Street during a downpour Monday afternoon. He hopped up to the rear cargo area, careful to watch his step.

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"The cold and rain is a little difficult at times, but I have gotten used to it," said Soto.

It was also raining Monday afternoon in San Juan, Puerto Rico, but about 40 degrees warmer than Juneau's 41. In fact Juneau's average temperature for the past 37 days has been 39.5 degrees, the 16th coolest on record, Ainsworth reported.

"I love this weather because it keeps me inside doing work that needs to be done," said Juneau Jazz & Classics Executive Director Pam Johansen. "I don't even have time to do my laundry."

A weak La Nina has been in place the past several months, based on ocean temperatures, atmospheric circulations, and precipitation patterns throughout the equatorial Pacific, Ainsworth said. Generally speaking, La Nina conditions bring cool winters and cloudier summers in Southeast Alaska, he explained.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's climate prediction center, La Nina conditions are forecast to persist but weaken over the next one to three months.



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