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Alaska Heat Wave Hits Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta

Katie Basile

People living in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta felt something unusual this past holiday weekend: a heat wave. Temperatures crept close to 90 degrees in many parts of the region, including Bethel, but a malfunctioning thermometer and not enough data could prevent this summer from making it into the record books. 

Cynthia Paniyak lives in Chevak. She says that this is the hottest summer she can remember.

"My thermometer outside my house last night read close to 100, 90-something, but it’s when the sun is directly on the house," Paniyak said.

It’s the middle of fishing season, but Paniyak is finding that the heat is making it hard to work.

"So from one to three this morning, I smoked my fish," Paniyak said.

Rick Thoman is a climatologist. He is keeping tabs on the temperature spike in the Y-K Delta.

"Some of the temperatures that we saw were at or near records," Thoman said.

Bethel’s airport thermometer stopped working last week, so it’s unclear if temperatures climbed higher than 90 degrees, which would have broken the record set in Bethel back in 1920.

Coastal villages like Quinhagak and Chevak did notch high temperatures, but Thoman says that there’s not enough data to see if the heat wave broke records there. Some of those communities have only been recording data since 2013.

Back in Chevak, Paniyak has dug out her fan and opened her windows to beat the heat. A friend from Colorado called as Alaska’s heatwave made national news.

"She called earlier and asked about AC, [I said] ‘we live in Alaska, we don’t have AC like you,’” Paniyak said. 

The weather forecast says that the heat wave is probably going to stay in Western Alaska for two more days.