Tag Archives: climate

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.


Turbulence in Review

December in Review

We saw some oddities in our weather, not just in December, but throughout 2021.

On Christmas Day, Fairbanks was considerably warmer than Ketchikan far down the coast, as Ketchikan celebrated their coldest December 25th on record.

A day later, Kodiak hit 67F, which is the warmest temperature ever recorded, anywhere in Alaska, in the month of December. That broke Kodiak’s record high for the day by 9F. It was warmer in Kodiak than Los Angeles or Seattle. Cold Bay also destroyed their old record high on the same day, with a temperature of 62F. The previous record high for the day was 44F!

Alaska 2021 Review

The North Slope saw extended thunderstorms, and Fairbanks set an all time record for precipitation. Yakutat, Alaska’s surfing hot spot, saw 67F in mid-April, and a day later, Klawock experienced the earliest 75F ever in the State.

Nome saw six blizzards over a three week period, Buckland saw spring flooding, and the Noatak experienced extreme summer rain.

Anchorage had an early heavy snow, King Salmon had a chilly autumn, and our capital experienced their coldest December in almost 40 years.

Maps by: ACCAP/UAF; Data by: NOAA/NCEI/NWS


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


Humpbacks of Glacier Bay

A pair of humpback whales in Glacier Bay; Photo credit: National Marine Fisheries Service

From 2014-2016, the Gulf of Alaska was hit by The Blob. A large mass of water that sat at a consistent record-high ocean temperature. A number of marine species saw a large population decline.

Humpbacks in Glacier Bay have been studied extensively since 1973. Individual whales are documented and identified by their dorsal fins and flukes. Each are unique. 2013 saw a return of 160 humpbacks to Glacier Bay, which was a record number since recording began. In 2014, the year the blob first showed itself, only 40 returned to The Bay. Some humpbacks have been returning to Glacier Bay for over 40 years.

The humpback population started to recover in Glacier Bay 2020. There were eleven calves in The Bay this year, where there were none for some of the blob years.

A curious side note: It has been reported that the humpbacks have thoroughly enjoyed having the waters of Glacier Bay almost to themselves. Or, at least without cruise ships. It has been documented that the whales have been much more vocal with each other with the absence of the large cruise ships.

No offense to anyone out there, but I am with the whales on this one. The lack of tourists has been peaceful.


High Tide

The village of Kwigillingok

The southwestern village of Kwigillingok, which lies on the Bering Sea coast, within the vast Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, is seeing some of the worst flooding anyone can remember. Flooding is not rare at Kwigillingok, but the severity of Friday’s high tide has reached a new threshold.

Buildings within the village are on pilings, so water did not breach any structures, but time does not appear to be on the village’s side.

The melting permafrost is causing land subsidence, which has made the village very susceptible to flooding, especially at high tide. The flooding then speeds up the melting of the permafrost even more, causing a harsh cycle.

Several homes are slated to be moved due to the threat of erosion, but the entire village is now contemplating a move to higher ground.

Photos credit: Jesse Igkurak/Alaska Public Media