Mean monthly climate maps of Alaskan surface temperature and precipitation produced by the parameter-elevation regression on independent slopes model (PRISM) were analyzed. Alaska is divided into interior and coastal zones with consistent but different climatic variability separated by a transition region; it has maximum interannual variability but low long-term mean variability. Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO)- and El Nin??o southern oscillation (ENSO)-type events influence Alaska surface temperatures weakly (1-2 ??C) statewide. PDO has a stronger influence than ENSO on precipitation but its influence is largely localized to coastal central Alaska. The strongest influence of Arctic oscillation (AO) occurs in northern and interior Alaskan precipitation. Four major ecosystems are defined. A major eco-transition zone occurs between the interior boreal forest and the coastal rainforest. Variability in insolation, surface temperature, precipitation, continentality, and seasonal changes in storm track direction explain the mapped ecosystems. Lack of westward expansion of the interior boreal forest into the western shrub tundra is influenced by the coastal marine boundary layer (enhanced cloud cover, reduced insolation, cooler surface and soil temperatures). In this context, the marine boundary layer acts in an analogous fashion to the orographic features which form the natural boundaries of other Alaskan ecosystems. Variability in precipitation may play a secondary role.
Additional Publication Details
Long-term climate patterns in Alaskan surface temperature and precipitation and their biological consequences
IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing