Shaking in Chignik

The 8.2 magnitude earthquake and the 140 aftershocks

At around 10:30 on Wednesday night, the alarm bells went off, and people across Alaska’s southern coast made a bee-line for higher ground. An 8.2 magnitude earthquake struck the interface between the subducting Pacific and overriding North American plates. This interface is known as the Aleutian Megathrust,and it is a very active seismic region. In fact, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake hit the area almost a year ago exactly.

Wave action

A tsunami warning was immediately issued for coastal communities, but luckily incoming waves never reached heights over a 1/4 meter, and the warning was lifted a little over two hours later.

This was the first 8.0+ earthquake to hit the United States in 50 years. In the 12 hours after the initial quake, the area received 140 aftershocks, with the largest being a 6.1. In 1938, the same area experienced an 8.3 magnitude shaker.

NWS Priority Warnings Chart

Interestingly, Tsunami Warning is Priority #1 on the National Weather Service priority list. One would hope that Nuclear Power Plant Meltdown is higher on a different agency’s list.


Record Sockeye

The F/V Cutting Edge, loaded with sockeye; Photo credit: KTOO

I spoke with someone from Dillingham yesterday. The salmon run was winding down, fishermen were leaving town, but he described the salmon season as “fast & furious”.

It must have been exactly that. The one salmon bright spot across the state has been Bristol Bay this summer. The salmon run was an all time record for The Bay with over 63.2 million sockeyes returning. It is the fourth time since 1952 that the return has hit the 60 million mark.

The Nushagak also set a record for escapement, with 9.7 million sockeyes swimming upriver. That district had their second best run with 27.2 million sockeyes.

That’s a lot of Red.


Alaskan Nightlife

Artwork by Ray Troll


Jacoby wins Gold

I worked late on Monday, but I arrived home just in time for this:

The 17 year old who had Alaska bouncing off the walls

Lydia Jacoby beat her own career best time, while swimming ahead of the current world record holder, and Olympic record holder, in order to take home the gold medal in the women’s 100 meter breaststroke.

In this case, home is Seward, Alaska.

Alaskans were pumped about Jacoby’s performance in the semifinal, which was 8 tenths of a second slower than her final swim.

Alaskans across the state watched the race, and several hundred fans met at the Seward train depot to catch it on the big screen. Jacoby grew up swimming with the Seward Tsunami Swim Club.

It was the first gold medal in swimming for an Alaskan.


First Cruise

The Serenade of the Seas in port at Sitka, Alaska; Photo credit: Alaska Public Media

The first large cruise ship since 2019 hit port in Sitka last week. From most reports, one could barely tell it came in by the activity level in town.

On a ship that has a capacity of just under 2500 passengers, the crew members outnumbered passengers 804 to 632. The passengers didn’t seem to mind the extra elbow room, however.

In a sign of the times, Sitka was in the midst of the largest coronavirus outbreak in Alaska outside of Anchorage.


“Weather Station in Alaska”

Oil on canvas, circa 1949 by Dale Nichols

Nichols was mainly known for painting the American Midwest, but he also did several with scenes from Alaska. Nichols, who traveled extensively during his lifetime, passed away at the age of 91 in 1995.


Fire Season

Alaska smokejumpers land among the muskox

Luckily, we have not had a bad wildfire season in Alaska for 2021. We did have a fire flare up close to Fairbanks late last week, when smokejumpers, seen above, landed at UAF’s LARS location, where the herd of muskox can be seen roaming the hills. From the muskox field, the smokejumpers hiked the half mile to the fire’s location. That fire was quickly under control, and the firefighters went back to the Munson Creek fire soon after they were dispatched.

With just under 180,000 acres burned within the state so far this season, it puts us roughly equal with 2020 and within the lowest range of burned area since 2008. The Interior remains in a burn ban, but historically, 2/3 of acreage within a season has burned by July 15.

Figures,facts, graphics and video all from the Alaska Division of Forestry


Hot? It’s all perception

For the past 4-5 days, I’ve been amused by the local weather forecast. Monday and Tuesday of this week have been drawing a lot of attention for a coming “heat wave”. The extended forecast even had a sizzling HOT! for the two days, complete with an image of a blazing Sun and bright red heat waves radiating up from it. Weather forecasters couldn’t contain their excitement.

The forecast calls for a high of 82F degrees on both days.

Quite the scorcher.

On Friday, Fairbanks saw a high of 80 degrees for the 11th time this season, which historically, is the average number for a summer. In 2020, Fairbanks had only three days where we hit 80F for the entire season.

It should be noted that Anchorage residents have also been complaining about the heat. They saw a high of 78F on Saturday, and people were scrambling up into the Chugach Mountains to find snow. Anchorage hit 80F on Sunday, which was the third day in a row for them having a record high temp. In the past 70 years, Anchorage has seen 80F degrees only 37 times.


Double Sunset

From the National Weather Service

As I wrote yesterday, Fairbanks just had its final post-midnight sunset. The sun went down at 12:01 am on July 15, but the sun also set at 11:57 pm on July 15th.

Double sunset, double the fun. Life in the north.


An actual thunderstorm

Image from the National Weather Service – Fairbanks

An honest to goodness thunderstorm is rather rare in Alaska. We get lightning by the bolt load, but nothing like a midwestern U.S. hill shaker. We just do not have the humidity to drive impressive, tornado birthing, cells. Still, what developed just across the northern bank of the Yukon River near Beaver, AK actually brought out the official Severe Thunderstorm Warning call from the Fairbanks office of the National Weather Service on Wednesday evening.

It was noted that it has been over two years since the NWS from Anchorage or Juneau has issued such a warning. Who knew such competition existed within the NWS?

Definitely not a normal occurrence.

On another note: Last night was the final night of the year for a post midnight sunset in Fairbanks. Summer is going by so fast.