Winter Update

Graphic credit: National Weather Service – Fairbanks

It’s been a warm winter so far for Interior Alaska. The low temp for this winter season was officially -29F at the airport. At this same point last year, we already had seen two weeks worth of -30 or colder. We have not hit that mark yet, although I have seen a few -30F degree mornings at the cabin.

Graphic credit: NWS Fairbanks

The winter started out with some decent dumpings of snow, but that tap has been turned off since mid-November. We have had a total of 5″ since November 16. That is well below the average of 22.4″ during that period. The record snow over that same time frame is 86.8″, which fell during the 1970-71 season.

Anchorage and Fairbanks combined have had 8/10 of an inch of snow over the past two weeks. By comparison, and I’m enjoying this, several towns in Texas have had more snow the past two weeks: Austin with 1.3″; Midland: 3.2″; Waco: 4″; College Station: 4.5″; Lubbock: a whopping 7.6″! Congrats on the snow.


Lightning Strikes

Lightning strikes across Alaska in 2020; Map credit: Vaisala

Alaska had 415,231 lightning strikes statewide in 2020. That may seem like a lot, but it’s nothing compared to Texas. In 2020, the Second Largest State in the U.S. had 33,816,168 strikes, which led the nation. The Lone Star state also had the #1 slot in 2019.

Florida led the U.S. in strikes per square mile, with 194 events.

Rhode Island had the least lightning events with only 8551 in 2020.

There were 170 million lightning events across the United States in 2020, which was a drop of 52 million from the previous year.

Even the high Arctic receives some flashes. There were 192 events north of 85°N over the course of two days: July 1-2.

The Washington Monuments was struck on June 4.

Vaisala’s U.S. National Lightning Detection Network, records both in-cloud, and cloud to ground lightning flashes.

Source: Vaisala Annual Lightning Report: 2020


Grant at U.S. Capitol

Flashback Film Friday:

Camera: Canon Canonet; Film: Kodak 35mm, Tri-X400


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.