Lack of Snow Pushes Iditarod Race North

Record cold and snowy conditions have dominated the weather in the eastern US this winter. The western part of the country, however, has been exceptionally warm and dry. That includes Alaska, where the famous Iditarod Dog Sled Race got underway today.

Due to a lack of snow, this year’s Iditarod had to be moved north 225 miles from its traditional starting point in Anchorage, AK to Fairbanks, AK. In a typical winter season, the city of Anchorage collects 60 inches of snow. So far this year, they have only received 20 inches.

Meteorologists at the NWS office in Anchorage attribute Alaska’s unseasonably warm winter and its dearth of snow to a highly amplified jet stream, which allowed warmer Pacific air to dominate the region. Above average sea surface temperatures along the coastline of this country’s northern most state also contributed to its unusually mild conditions.

Ending in Nome, AK, the annual race spans 1000 miles of arctic tundra and commemorates the journey made by dogsledders in 1925 to deliver medical supplies for a diphtheria outbreak in that city. This year was the second time in the event’s 43-year competitive history that the starting point had to be moved because of poor snow conditions. The last time was in 2003.


Musher and dog sled team on the Iditarod Trail, AK.   Credit: ADN