Category Archives: Alaska

Historic Ash

Kodiak Island just Southeast of Katmai

Kodiak Island had a somewhat unique Winter Warning on Thursday. Mixed in the fresh snow was some ancient volcanic ash. Ash from the Novarupta eruption of 1912 was carried across the Shelikof Strait due to some high winds, and the ash came down with the recent snowfall. The ash was not expected to climb above 7000 feet, but airlines were notified, and air quality on the island may have been diminished.

Ashfall, over a foot deep, on Kodiak Island; June 1912

The Novarupta eruption started on 6 June 1912, and lasted three days. The eruption was the most powerful of the 20th Century. The ash cloud is thought to have risen to over 100,000 feet, which is incredibly impressive. An estimated 3.6 cubic miles (15 cubic KMs) of magma erupted. That’s 30 times more than the Mount St Helens eruption. As much as 600 feet of ash was dumped on the region now known as The Valley of 10,000 Smokes.

The ash kick-up does happen from time to time, when winds hit the area just right, and carry loose ash over to Kodiak.

All seven volcanos in the Katmai region, including Novarupta, remain at Level Green.


Sourdough Wisdom

A rear-wheeled drive GMC Adventure

Overheard the other day:

An elderly resident was asked what’s the best rig for Interior Alaska. He replied, “A two wheel drive pickup.”

There was some shock, and surprise in the answer, as well as a few snickers.

The Sourdough went on to say, “In a four wheel drive truck with a winch, you will get stuck 40 miles away. In a four wheel drive rig, you’ll get stuck 20 miles away. In a front wheel drive vehicle, you might get stuck 10 miles away. But in a rear wheel drive pick up truck, you’ll get stuck at the end of your road, and you can walk back home and have a beer while waiting for the road to get plowed.


Nightlights

The Big Dipper behind a shimmering veil

Trending Brown

Graph credit: ACCAP, UAF, NOAA, NWS

Between 1930 and 2015, Fairbanks had a total of five Halloweens with less than an inch of snow on the ground. Counting this year, we have had five years since 2015 with less than an inch of snow on the ground. Currently, we have a dusting, and with 40F degrees forecast for Halloween Weekend, the odds are in favor of a brown Halloween for 2021.


The slumping of the Denali Park Road

A drill rig taking core samples at Pretty Rocks

The Denali Park Road has a slump in it. The road was cut into the rocks 90 years ago, and a section at Mile 45 in Polychrome Pass, in an area that is known as Pretty Rocks, is built over an underground rock glacier. The existence of the glacier was unknown at that time, but it has been melting at an accelerating rate the past three years.

In 2018 the road was dropping an inch a month, by 2019 that had grown to an inch a day. This August, the road has been dropping over a half inch an hour. More than 100 dump truck loads of gravel were dropped over this span every week this summer, but even that proved pointless, and the Park Road was closed to traffic at Mile 43 in August. The landslide has moved far enough down the hillside to expose the ice below the roadway.

Winter should put the freeze into the ground once again, so that the road can be used early next spring, but the plans are for the road to be closed for all of the summer of 2022. There is solid rock on either side of the glacier, so a bridge will be anchored into those to span the slump zone.

Time lapse of the landslide in Polychrome Pass

Photo and time-lapse credit: NPS


Happy Alaska Day

The Big Dipper dominates Alaska skies

Today is the anniversary of the formal transfer of the Territory of Alaska from Russia to the United States.

The $7.2 million U.S. Treasury check for the purchase of Alaska


Peaking Out

Somewhere around Fairbanks

I believe we have hit peak autumn colors in the Fairbanks area this past weekend.


Tire Changeover

Getting serious in Wrangell-St Elias; Photo credit: NPS

It’s tire changeover time in the northern half of Alaska. Studded tires can now be put on the vehicles, as of September 16th. Remember, if you procrastinate, the lines at the tire shop only get longer.

Think it’s too early to put on the set of Blizzaks?

Hatcher Pass, Alaska; Photo credit: Alaska State Parks

This is an image from Hatcher Pass on Thursday, which is in the southern half of the state, and must remain stud-free until October 1.


The First Sections of Pipe

The Alaska Maru

On this date in 1969, the first shipment of pipe for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline landed in Valdez, Alaska. On board the Alaska Maru was enough pipe for 8.6 miles of the proposed 800 mile pipeline. There were 1160 sections of 40 foot long pipe, weighing 5 tons each.

Alaska received on average, three shipments a month from Japan. It took ten days for the pipe to travel from Japan to Alaska. The first 300 miles were unloaded at Valdez, and 500 miles to Seward, Anchorage and “other” ports in the state for distribution along the line. The final 150 miles of pipe were trucked up the Haul Road to Prudhoe Bay.


The Summer of 2021

The high temps of summer

Fairbanks hit 89F officially, which was the highest temperature for the Summer of 2021. Seeing 80’s on the North Slope is a bit of a WHOA moment. Not unprecedented, just whoa.

At this stage of the season, only the Aleutians have much of a chance at increasing their number. Fairbanks has already started showing yellow in the hills, and I’m not talking about gold dust.

Map credit: ACCAP/UAF/NOAA