Alaskans put away jackets, get out sunscreen amid heat wave

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People swarm to DeLong Lake hoping to stay cool in the record breaking heat in Anchorage, Alaska on Friday, July 5, 2019. (Anchorage Daily News via AP)
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Children play with inflatable flamingos and other creatures at Goose Lake on Friday, July 5, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP)
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Tanell Hayes, left, helps daughters Amarianna and Amaris get their rods baited as they try to stay cool in the record-breaking heat in Anchorage, Alaska on Friday, July 5, 2019. (Anchorage Daily News via AP)
Updated 06 July 2019

Alaskans put away jackets, get out sunscreen amid heat wave

ANCHORAGE, Alaska: Alaskans who routinely pack knit caps and fleece jackets in summer on Friday were swapping them for sunscreen and parasols amid a prolonged heat wave.
Residents of Anchorage and other south-central cities completed a fifth week of above-normal temperatures, including a record high 90 degrees (32.22 Celsius) on Thursday in the state’s largest city.
On Friday, as temperatures dipped just slightly, Anchorage resident Lucy Davidson sought relief with her grandchildren at a beach at Goose Lake. She said she picked up a portable air conditioner at a garage sale six years ago. It had not been used some summers, but it’s getting a workout lately.
“That thing has been a blessing,” Davidson said. “It stays on non-stop.”
The temperature Thursday in Anchorage hit 90 degrees (32.22 Celsius) at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, 5 degrees higher than the city’s previous recorded high of 85 degrees (29.44 Celsius).
Three other Alaska locations, Kenai, Palmer and King Salmon, set or tied all-time high temperature records on Thursday.
A high-pressure ridge over much of south-central Alaska is strengthening and responsible for the record temperatures, National Weather Service meteorologist Bob Clay said. Anchorage’s average high temperature for July 4 is 75 degrees (23.89 Celsius), Clay said.
Temperatures have been in the 70s for all but one day since June 23, National Weather Service meteorologist Michelle McAuley said.
Anchorage experienced its wettest May ever but was warmer than normal every day in June, she said. The high-pressure system is expected at least through Monday, she said.
Anchorage gardeners who can’t grow a tomato without a greenhouse are loving the high temperatures. Others are experiencing flashbacks to where they used to live.
“My home doesn’t have AC like most homes here in Anchorage, and it’s pretty miserable,” said Manny Acuna, who moved north nine years ago with the Air Force. “That’s a lot coming from me because I’m originally from Las Vegas.”
Shawn King has lived his entire 31 years in Anchorage and has never seen a stretch of similar hot weather, he said. He used the occasion to take his 4-year-old daughter, Tessa, fishing for the first time on the dock of Jewel Lake. She insisted on going barefoot.
“It’s too hot for shoes,” Tessa said.
Visitors bracing for cooler temperatures were surprised to find out they would not need parkas.
“We didn’t pack clothes for this,” Judy Zickmund, who arrived in Anchorage after stepping off a cruise ship Friday morning in Seward with her husband, David. “We had gone on the Internet, and they said it usually runs about 65, 70 (degrees). But this has been wonderful, coming to Anchorage. The whole cruise was warmer than normal.”
Rick Thoman, a climate specialist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, said the record high is both a weather story and part of the ongoing changing environment story.
“These kinds of extreme weather events become much more likely in a warming world,” Thoman said.
High ocean temperatures have played a role in keeping Alaska warm, he said.
“Surface temperatures are above normal everywhere around Alaska,” Thoman said. “The entire Gulf of Alaska, in the Bering Sea, in the Chukchi Sea south of the ice edge, exceptionally warm waters, warmest on record, and of course record-low sea ice extent for this time of year off the north and northwest coasts of the state.”
Even with her air conditioner running full blast, Davidson said, she can’t get the temperature inside her home below 82 degrees.
“If it wasn’t so expensive, I’d buy one of those big outdoor pools,” she said.


Merriam-Webster’s top word of 2020 not a shocker: pandemic

Updated 30 November 2020

Merriam-Webster’s top word of 2020 not a shocker: pandemic

  • ‘It’s probably the word by which we’ll refer to this period in the future’
  • The Merriam-Webster site has about 40 million unique monthly users and about 100 million monthly page views

NEW YORK: If you were to choose a word that rose above most in 2020, which word would it be?
Ding, ding, ding: Merriam-Webster on Monday announced “pandemic” as its 2020 word of the year.
“That probably isn’t a big shock,” Peter Sokolowski, editor at large for Merriam-Webster, told The Associated Press.
“Often the big news story has a technical word that’s associated with it and in this case, the word pandemic is not just technical but has become general. It’s probably the word by which we’ll refer to this period in the future,” he said.
The word took on urgent specificity in March, when the coronavirus crisis was designated a pandemic, but it started to trend up on Merriam-Webster.com as early January and again in February when the first US deaths and outbreaks on cruise ships occurred.
On March 11, when the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic, lookups on the site for pandemic spiked hugely. Site interest for the word has remained significantly high through the year, Sokolowski said.
By huge, Sokolowski means searches for pandemic on March 11 were 115,806% higher than lookups experienced on the same date last year.
Pandemic, with roots in Latin and Greek, is a combination of “pan,” for all, and “demos,” for people or population. The latter is the same root of “democracy,” Sokolowski noted. The word pandemic dates to the mid-1600s, used broadly for “universal” and more specifically to disease in a medical text in the 1660s, he said.
That was after the plagues of the Middle Ages, Sokolowski said.
He attributes the lookup traffic for pandemic not entirely to searchers who didn’t know what it meant but also to those on the hunt for more detail, or for inspiration or comfort.
“We see that the word love is looked up around Valentine’s Day and the word cornucopia is looked up at Thanksgiving,” Sokolowski said. “We see a word like surreal spiking when a moment of national tragedy or shock occurs. It’s the idea of dictionaries being the beginning of putting your thoughts in order.”
Merriam-Webster acted quickly in March to add and update entries on its site for words related to the pandemic. While “coronavirus” had been in the dictionary for decades, “COVID-19” was coined in February. Thirty-four days later, Merriam-Webster had it up online, along with a couple dozen other entries that were revised to reflect the health emergency.
“That’s the shortest period of time we’ve ever seen a word go from coinage to entry,” Sokolowski said. “The word had this urgency.”
Coronavirus was among runners up for word of the year as it jumped into the mainstream. Quarantine, asymptomatic, mamba, kraken, defund, antebellum, irregardless, icon, schadenfreude and malarkey were also runners up based on lookup spikes around specific events.
Particularly interesting to word nerds like Sokolowski, a lexicographer, is quarantine. With Italian roots, it was used during the Black Death of the 1300s for the period of time a new ship coming into port would have to wait outside a city to prevent disease. The “quar” in quarantine derives from 40, for the 40 days required.
Spikes for mamba occurred after the January death of Kobe Bryant, whose nickname was the Black Mamba. A mass of lookups occurred for kraken in July after Seattle’s new National Hockey League franchise chose the mythical sea monster as its name, urged along by fans.
Country group Lady Antebellum’s name change to Lady A drove dictionary interest in June, while malarkey got a boost from President-elect Joe Biden, who’s fond of using the word. Icon was front and center in headlines after the deaths of US Rep. John Lewis and US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
The Merriam-Webster site has about 40 million unique monthly users and about 100 million monthly page views.