Comparing Maps of Mean Monthly Surface Temperature and Precipitation for Alaska and Adjacent Areas of Canada Produced by Two Different Methods


  • James J. Simpson
  • Gary L. Hufford
  • Christopher Daly
  • Jared S. Berg
  • Michael D. Fleming



Arctic hydrology, surface temperature, precipitation, Arctic, climographs, boreal forest, coastal rain forest, Alaska


Maps of mean monthly surface temperature and precipitation for Alaska and adjacent areas of Canada, produced by Oregon State University’s Spatial Climate Analysis Service (SCAS) and the Alaska Geospatial Data Clearinghouse (AGDC), were analyzed. Because both sets of maps are generally available and in use by the community, there is a need to document differences between the processes and input data sets used by the two groups to produce their respective set of maps and to identify similarities and differences between the two sets of maps and possible reasons for the differences. These differences do not affect the observed large-scale patterns of seasonal and annual variability. Alaska is divided into interior and coastal zones, with consistent but different variability, separated by a transition region. The transition region has high interannual variability but low long-term mean variability. Both data sets support the four major ecosystems and ecosystem transition zone identified in our earlier work. Differences between the two sets of maps do occur, however, on the regional scale; they reflect differences in physiographic domains and in the treatment of these domains by the two groups (AGDC, SCAS). These differences also provide guidance for an improved observational network for Alaska. On the basis of validation with independent in situ data, we conclude that the data set produced by SCAS provides the best spatial coverage of Alaskan long-term mean monthly surface temperature and precipitation currently available.