Tag Archives: climate

The remnants of Merbok…

…still packed quite the punch.

Graphic credit: NWS-Fairbanks

The western coast of Alaska was pummeled over the weekend by the remnants of Typhoon Merbok. Sustained winds over 50 mph, with gusts over 90; 50 foot waves and a storm surge 15 feet above high tide left many evacuating to higher ground.

Image credit: NOAA

It was the worst storm our Western Coast has experienced in 50 years, and it has been 70 years since a storm this fierce hit in September.

Front Street, Nome, Alaska; Image credit: S.Kinneen

To its credit, The National Weather Service was remarkably accurate in its forecast of the storm. Several days out, the NWS was getting out the word that this was going to be a devastating flooding event. All the ingredients came together perfectly to create some “very angry seas”.

A house swept off its foundation by flood waters, stuck at the Snake River Bridge in Nome, Alaska; Photo credit: Alaska DOT&PF
From the steps of the school in Golovin, Alaska; Photo credit: Josephine Daniels

High winds have taken roofs off of buildings, one building in Nome suffered from a fire, and the storm surge has evicted hundreds. Many took shelter in schools, or to higher ground.

My favorite village of Newtok has been flooded, and many have taken to the school for shelter. The riverbank at Newtok has eroded between 10-15 feet overnight. Newtok is one of several villages in Alaska in dire need of relocation due to erosion and sinking ground.

Water levels in many flooded villages are not expected to drop until Monday, and in some cases Tuesday. The timing of the storm is particularly difficult, with winter on the horizon. The village of Shaktoolik lost its sea berm to the storm, which leaves it vulnerable to additional winter storms. The village of Chevak lost much of its fishing fleet when boats sank or were damaged in the storm.

We really have two seasons in Alaska: Winter, and Preparing for Winter. Preparing for winter in Western Alaska is now going to be a huge challenge.


Falling short of 90

Map credit: NOAA/ACCAP

Even though Alaska had a warm and very dry start to summer, the state has not seen 90F yet. although some recording stations have hit 89F. A few northern locations in the Yukon and Northwest Territories broke the 90 degree mark, but none in Alaska.


Salmon Tales

Drying salmon in Lake Clark National Park; Photo credit: NPS

Alaska has two very different salmon stories being told in 2022. In one, the Bristol Bay Fishery is booming. Last year the salmon harvest set a sockeye record in Bristol Bay, and the region has already topped that record in 2022. Over 73.7 million sockeye salmon have returned to their spawning grounds in and around Bristol Bay, with over 56 million harvested.

The Yukon River basin, however, is headed for its worst run ever. The sonar station has never recorded such a low number of Chinook salmon, and the run for the entire drainage-wide system may only hit 50,000. Not one tributary is expected to make their escapement goals. Salmon fishing for the entire drainage, which includes the rivers in and around Fairbanks, has been closed for the entire season.

The chum salmon run, which starts in late summer, is also expected to be bad. The season will start out closed for fishing, with a hope that enough chum return to open for a fall season. No one is expecting it to open.


A very dry June

Map by @Climatologist49

The months of May and June in 2022 were the driest, statewide, on record. The period of January through June was the fifth warmest on record. Amazing, considering the staggering amount of snow we had, up to New Year’s. The tap was simply shut off.

The Clear Fire; Photo credit: Alaska Fire Service

So far in the 2022 fire season, Alaska has seen 2.74 million acres burn. The Clear Fire, near Anderson, Alaska and the Clear Air Force Base, is now pushing 70,000 acres and is right up to the Space Force Base boundaries. It is one of three fires that account for most of the smoke driven towards Fairbanks.

Fires over 50,000 acres; Map credit: Alaska Fire Service

With the 2.74 million acres burned, we have passed the entire 2019 fire season, and 2022 is already the 8th largest season in acres burned.

Water drop over the Clear Fire; Photo credit: Alaska Fire Service

I included the final photo simply because I love the image. Kudos to the Fire Service Photographer who captured it.


Wildfire Update:

Current wildfires over 100,000 acres; Map credit: Alaska Fire Service

The state of Alaska currently has over 225 wildfires burning within its borders and over 1000 firefighters battling the blazes. So far this fire season, over 2 million acres have burned, which is the earliest date to hit that milestone in the past two decades.

Wildfire acreage; Graph credit: ACCAP

A red flag warning has been in effect throughout Interior Alaska, and fireworks were banned over the weekend. The Borough implemented a $1000 fine for anyone caught setting off fireworks, which did make for a relatively quiet 4th of July.

Nature ignored the fines however, as we have had a very active few days of lightning. Between June 28 and July 4th, the state had 25,000 strikes, and Tuesday alone saw another 4500 lightning strikes, which started 13 new wildfires.

I have not seen the final numbers for June, but the month was expected to contend with the driest Junes on record statewide. Which is saying something, as it’s a pretty big state.


Denali Road Droop

Denali Park Road at Pretty Rocks; August 2021

The above picture is of the Denali Park Road at the Pretty Rocks formation last August. That was the last time any gravel had been dumped in this section of road that is dropping due to melting ice under the roadbed.

Denali Park Road at Pretty Rocks; Spring 2022

This spring, maintenance crews discovered that the road had dropped as much as 40 feet at the troublesome section near Pretty Rocks. It had already been decided that the park road would be closed for the 2022 season due to the roadbed situation, but the drop was more impressive than forecast.

A new bridge will be installed over the section with the melting ice formation, and will be secured into solid rock on either side of the great melt. I expect that the road into the heart of Denali Park to remain closed through the 2023 season.

Pictures credit: Denali National Park & Preserve


Climate Pledge Arena

The Lair of the Seattle Kraken

With travel loosening up somewhat, and hockey once again allowing fans, I made a quick break for the Lower 48 last weekend. Since I had to travel through Seattle, I figured I would overnight, and take in a Kraken game. Climate Pledge Arena is located in Seattle Center, which is the home of the Space Needle, and was the home of the 1962 World’s Fair. Renovated to be the home of the fledgling Kraken NHL team, the arena maintains the original roof and exterior support from the Washington State Pavilion, which was built in 1962.

Inside Climate Pledge pregame

The arena is said to have hit its goal of being carbon neutral in 2022. There are over 12,500 trees and plants on site, including the Climate Pledge Living Wall. Rain water is collected in a cistern, and that water is used to resurface the ice. With the extensive mass transit system in Seattle, people are actively discouraged from driving to the rink. Personally, I just walked over for the game.

Releasing the Kraken

The pregame festivities are true to the history and personality of Seattle. There were two themes, one was nautical, and the other was musical. Water, Seattle and the Kraken go tentacle in tentacle. Water, in all its forms, including ice, are celebrated here.

Local youth bands played for the audience pregame, in a platform called School of Rock. The talent was impressive. A 12 year old played a Jimi Hendricks inspired “Star Spangled Banner” on his electric guitar. The crowd roared with approval.

The lead up to puck drop; Note the Seattle Metropolitans Stanley Cup banner in the rafters
Warm ups; The Seattle Kraken vs. The Dallas Stars

Being an expansion team, Seattle isn’t knocking on the door to the playoffs, but they have a rabid following, which is true of all Seattle sports teams. The Dallas Stars happened to be in town, and the Kraken played quite well. The arena was packed, and the crowd was raucous. Dallas never seemed to get their footing, and lost decidedly 4-1.

Just a fun night at a new arena, after being cooped up for two years. Great atmosphere at Climate Pledge, and any time I can watch the Dallas Stars lose is a “cherry on top” kind of day.


Wet Alaska

Graphic credit: ACCAP, UAF; Data credit: NOAA, NCEI

Over the past five decades, Alaska has seen a substantial increase in precipitation. The Southeast & South-Central part of the state has seen only single digit increases, which is probably a good thing considering much of that area is a rain forest.

Interior Alaska has seen a 12% increase in precipitation. I can’t say I’m surprised by that, as we definitely seem to be getting more snow during the winter. With a warming trend, we were bound to see more snowfall.

Still, it’s intriguing to see the actual numbers.


Bering Ice

Graphic credit: ACCAP, UAF, NOAA

Bering Sea ice is at its highest level this late in the season since 2013. Which is good news for Alaska in 2022. Not only does the extended sea ice help out our wildlife, but it offers protection for communities like Nome from fierce winter storms.


“Ice Edge”

The Ikaaġvik Sikukun Story:

The reduction of sea ice off of Alaska’s coast is the subject of the new documentary “Ice Edge”. Iñupiaq residents of Kotzebue went to work with researchers at the University of Alaska – Fairbanks and Columbia University to document the changes, as well as look towards the future.

Seals are a vital component to the Native diet along Alaska’s northwest coast. The study finds that over the past 17 years, the seal hunting season has decreased at least one day, and sometimes more, each year, due to the change in sea ice.

The documentary can be watched on YouTube in its entirety. It is sectioned into 14 segments, to make it easier to watch a little at a time. On Thursday, one can join a viewing party and take part in a Q&A afterwards, on youtube, facebook, and other social media suspects. The live viewing party begins at 10am AST on Thursday January 27.