Thunderstorms moving across the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas for multiple days

Jul 19, 2021


Satellite photo of Alaska, By ACCAP


As our climate changes around us, the unusual is becoming more frequent.

Whether it be shorter snow seasons, intense wildfires, or most recently-- storms and lightning across the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.

Alaska climate specialist Rick Thoman,(TOE-min) says thunderstorms need a few different ingredients. 

"One, they need a moisture, and they need a fairly steep decrease in temperature of loft."

Storms over the oceans aren’t particularly rare, but Thoman says these storms form differently. 

"We have very warm, moist air, moving off of Siberia. And across the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, and that's intersecting in this case, in the last few days, a slow moving weather front thats then providing the mechanism to cause that warm moist air well above the ocean surface"

A slow moving weather front, otherwise known as an active cold front, replaces warm moist air with cool and dry air.

As the storms rage on, they bring smoke to parts of northern and western Alaska as well. 

"So the same winds that loft that has brought this warm moist air, the smoke is coming with it-- and that is all Siberian fires in the interior right now, everything across the north slope and out over western Alaska that is all Siberian smoke where they have had a lot of wildfire activity this season."

Thoman says that the likelihood of these storms becoming more frequent in the next couple decades is high, and will continue to rise as our climate changes at a rapid pace.

Special thanks to Rashah McChesney & Tripp Crouse for edits