Dogs and their owners enjoy a snowless walk on a trail bordering Juneau's airport Dec. 29. Show has accumulated on nearby mountains. (Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska News)

Dogs and their owners enjoy a snowless walk on a trail bordering Juneau’s airport Dec. 29. Show has accumulated on nearby mountains. (Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska News)

If you live in Southeast Alaska and want to see snow, you’re going to have to wait. The National Weather Service predicts a couple more weeks without significant deposits of the white stuff. That’s affecting more than skiers.


TW Hall plows snow and sands parking lots, among other things. So you’d think Southeast’s warm winter would be a problem.

But, it’s not.

“It’s been allowing me to work on my cars and play, and to have time off. I enjoy it,” says Dwan Hall, owner of the Juneau business, which also operates dump trucks and graders.

“I’ve just grown used to, some years you have it and some years you don’t. So it’ll all average out over the years,” he says. “I know it’s hurting some of the new guys. I expect to see a few snow plows and sanders up for sale in the spring.”

Details differ from town to town, and of course elevation.

But overall, Southeast has been mild.

“It’s not a record warm or a record low snow. But it is really quite abnormal,” says Rick Fritsch of the National Weather Service’s Juneau Forecast Office.

He says this season is influenced by what’s called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. It’s sort of like El Niño, a pattern of climate variability, except it lasts much longer.

“The Gulf of Alaska, the sea surface temperature … is warmer than normal. And that’s translating into warmer than normal weather for us. And, unfortunately, dryer than normal,” he says.

If it continues, snowpacks will be smaller and hydropower plants could run out of water in the summer. Some salmon streams could run low, making it harder for fry to leave and adults to spawn.

Skiers, snowmobilers, snowshoers and kids with sleds face gravel or grass. And all those studded snow tires may grind down the pavement a little quicker.

Fritsch points out, that could change in a day.

“The tricky thing about snow is that you are always, almost literally, one storm away from having a record snow season,” he says.

Fritsch says December brought less than 20 percent of the average snowfall. And he expects that to continue at least a couple more weeks.

But if there’s a time for a turnaround, it’s now.

“January is typically our biggest snow month in Southeast Alaska. And it could make the difference between a very poor snow season overall or a very good snow season, if you kind of ignore December and the last half of November,” he says.

Low snow and warm temperatures can also damage gardens. Juneau’s Ed Buyarski owns Ed’s Edible Landscaping and shares his knowledge throughout the region.

“Plants can be tricked into thinking winter’s over after they get their 8 to 12 weeks of chilled cold time. And then we get 40 degrees in January or February. They think it’s time to grow and bulbs pop up and other stuff and then it gets back down to 10 degrees for a week. The growing tips get damaged, at least. And they’re using energy in doing that,” he says.

That freeze-thaw cycle varies from town to town. Those closer to the coast experience more warming. Those further inland get less.

Buyarski says that’s not ideal for many plants and shrubs, and even some trees.

“The best thing we could hope for is to have 6 inches of snow to last from the 1st of December ‘til mid-March and then it becomes spring. I haven’t seen that in 30 years of living in Southeast Alaska,” he says.