Author Archives: icefogger

About icefogger

Just a basic, down to Earth, laid back type of guy here, who loves the outdoors, the indoors, jazz on the turntable, a fire in the woodstove, the northern lights blazing across the sky, and the company of good friends.

Bomb Cyclone

New Year’s Eve storm over the Aleutians; Image credit: CIRA/NOAA

The Aleutian Chain was rocked by an incredible storm over New Years. The wonderfully named Bomb Cyclone, set a record in Alaska for a low pressure system.

High and low-pressure systems form when air mass and temperature differences between the surface of the Earth, and the upper atmosphere, create vertical currents. In a low pressure system, the air currents flow upward, sucking air away from the earth’s surface like a giant Shop*Vac.

Eareckson Air Force Base on Shemya Island recorded the record low pressure at 924.8 millibars.

The record breaking low pressure system; Image credit: Tomer Burg

A sea buoy off of Amchitka Island, registered a wave at 58.1 feet. Winds at Shemya hit gusts of 83 mph. This was an impressive storm that pummeled the outer islands of the Aleutian Chain. From Atka to Adak, the islands were seeing 40-50 foot waves and hurricane force winds.

Graphic credit: National Weather Service – Fairbanks

St Lawrence Island and the Yukon Delta saw high winds and blizzard conditions when the storm hit Alaska’s mainland.

Unlike a hurricane, which extract heat from the ocean, as they grow in power, a maritime cyclone creates energy by drawing together warm and cold air masses. It’s the energy created when the warm air rises and the cold air sinks, that gives rise to the cyclone.

Sources: NOAA, UAF, NWS, NASA


One Year on a Beaver Dam

From Voyaguers Wolf Project; Voyaguers National Park

Voyaguers Wolf Project placed a camera trap on one end of a beaver dam near Voyaguers National Park in Northern Minnesota. This six minute video shows the variety of wildlife that made use of the beaver’s bridge to cross the pond.


Bring on 2021

May 2021 be a little brighter

Like many others, I have never been so ready to turn the page on a year, as I am with 2020.

Best wishes to all of you in 2021.

Cheers

Fireworks at the University of Alaska campus, 12/31/20

Return to Us: Restoring Alaska’s Eklutna River

“Salmon is a language that binds us together”

The Eklutna River, in South-central Alaska, was once a source of a thriving salmon population. A hydroelectric dam was built in the late 1920’s to send power to the growing town of Anchorage, ending the Eklutna’s salmon run. The dam stopped being a power source in 1955, and the residents of the village of Eklutna have been trying to get the dam removed for decades.

That finally happened in 2018, when the Lower Eklutna dam was removed. That was only step one in the battle to return salmon to the river. Now, the river needs to get its water back.

The water from the river was diverted from its natural valley to a tunnel which provides power to the grid. The Eklutna power station is a clean, renewable source of power, but 90% of the water flow, only adds 3% to the power grid. The other 10% of the river’s water adds up to 90% of Anchorage’s water supply. Zero percent goes to the river.

The 8-1/2 minute video details the effort to regain some balance and allow water to flow back into the river basin.


Great Conjunction

Jupiter and Saturn on 21 December 2020; Photo credit: NASA

A NASA probe, orbiting the moon, took the above image of Saturn and Jupiter during the “Great Conjunction”.


Sharin’ The Blues

Map credit: NWS Caribou, Maine

Alaska and Canada sharing some Christmas weekend love with the Lower 48. You’re welcome!


Operation Santa… by dogsled

Flashback Film Friday; Holiday Edition:

Photo credit: Alaska Archives, UAA, USAF

Airmen out of Elmendorf AFB take packages by dogsled into the village of Savoonga on Saint Lawrence Island. It was -20F when they unloaded their C-123, Christmas Day, 1963. The huskies look to be getting impatient.


…Not even a mouse

The Far Side by Gary Larson


Alaska Covid-19 Restrictions

Courtesy of The Onion:

  • Preventing people from dying alone 5,000 miles away from anyone who loves them would defeat the entire purpose of Alaska.
  • Residents advised against pulling down their mask to say, “Hey, there’s a moose” every time they see a moose.
  • Visitors must quarantine for 14 days in the Alaskan wilderness with nothing but a pocket knife and a frying pan.

There was a state by state slideshow on their site. I admit to only looking at Alaska’s, because it was only two slides into the presentation. I am a fan of alphabetical order. Link to the entire slideshow can be found below:

https://www.theonion.com/state-by-state-covid-19-restrictions-1845906521


Taking over the neighborhood

A cruise ship is dwarfed by the mountains of Glacier Bay, Alaska; Photo credit: National Park Service

In a normal year, Glacier Bay receives more than 150 cruise ship visits. In 2020, with the cruise industry in dry dock, Glacier Bay has seen a regular inhabitant take over. The humpback whale has been making the most of no cruise ships.

Humpbacks have been studied regularly for decades in Glacier Bay. Individual whales had been identified as far back as 1973. In 2020, the whales have been seen lounging in the middle of channels, feeding in large groups, and generally enjoying “room to roam”, as one researcher put it. Their underwater vocalizing was way up too, thrilling researchers.

The Park’s whale monitoring system has identified 740 individual whales between 1985 and 2017. The birth year of 311 Glacier Bay whales is known to researchers, because they were sighted as calves in The Bay. The oldest whale is a male, #516 or Garfunkle. Garfunkle was born in 1974. He was last seen in 2016.

The longest documented humpback was #441, who had been seen for 45 years. His carcass was found outside of Glacier Bay in 2016, his age was 66 years. The oldest documented humpback was 98 years old, when he was taken by a commercial whaler. The age of humpbacks can be determined by the layers on their ear plugs.

Most female humpback whales of Glacier Bay are able to have a calf every three years once they mature, which is at 12 years of age in Alaska waters, much later than northern Atlantic humpbacks.

Glacier Bay and Icy Strait is a regular home to 181 humpbacks, with Southeast Alaska being home to 1585 individuals. The most recent estimate has 21,063 humpback whales living in the entire North Pacific.

A link to the sounds of the Glacier Bay humpback can be found below:

https://www.nps.gov/media/video/view.htm?id=FB642F7E-1DD8-B71C-075F52B0E5F2D04A

Sources: Glacier Bay National Park, UAF, Alaska Fish & Game, KTOO