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Keywords:

  • climate;
  • Alaska;
  • global change;
  • temperature;
  • precipitation

Summary

Data from a sparse network of climate stations in Alaska were interpolated to provide 1-km resolution maps of mean monthly temperature and precipitation–-variables that are required at high spatial resolution for input into regional models of ecological processes and resource management. The interpolation model is based on thin-plate smoothing splines, which uses the spatial data along with a digital elevation model to incorporate local topography. The model provides maps that are consistent with regional climatology and with patterns recognized by experienced weather forecasters. The broad patterns of Alaskan climate are well represented and include latitudinal and altitudinal trends in temperature and precipitation and gradients in continentality. Variations within these broad patterns reflect both the weakening and reduction in frequency of low-pressure centres in their eastward movement across southern Alaska during the summer, and the shift of the storm tracks into central and northern Alaska in late summer. Not surprisingly, apparent artifacts of the interpolated climate occur primarily in regions with few or no stations. The interpolation model did not accurately represent low-level winter temperature inversions that occur within large valleys and basins. Along with well-recognized climate patterns, the model captures local topographic effects that would not be depicted using standard interpolation techniques. This suggests that similar procedures could be used to generate high- resolution maps for other high-latitude regions with a sparse density of data.