Tag Archives: heat

The Big Q: II

Comic credit: Nuggets by Jamie Smith


Temperature Inversions

We have been getting rain for much of the night here in the Interior of Alaska. As I get ready to turn in for the night, I noticed that we are currently 34 degrees warmer than Minneapolis, and 2 degrees warmer than San Antonio, Texas.


Seeing Red


Forecast for Alaska temperature difference from normal on Saturday. (WeatherBell.com)

No matter where one goes in town, everyone is talking about the weather. It’s hot. For Fairbanks, Alaska… it’s damn hot. Very few people are thrilled with it either.

Fairbanks is virtually assured that this month of December will be the warmest on record.


Fairbanks weather data through Dec. 19. National Weather Service

Every day this month, we have seen temperatures above normal. Throw out the first two days of the month, and we have been well above normal.

It hasn’t just been Fairbanks either, this has been statewide, which is saying something. Alaska is not a small state. On December 8, Juneau hit 54 degrees, which was warmer than Houston, Texas.
In the middle of the month, Anchorage saw 4 straight days of 45 degrees or higher, which was also a record.
Eagle, Alaska on the Yukon has been 23.5 degrees above normal for the month. Kotzebue, on the west coast, has tied record highs.

In Utqiaġvi, the community formerly known as Barrow, 74 out of the last 79 days have been above normal in temperature.


Big, red blob over Alaska; big, blue, hunk of cold over midwest (Wetherbell.com)

This weather pattern is freaky, even considering recent winters. It’s just too warm for us. The roads are a slick mess, and they will remain so all winter if we don’t go below zero. The rivers are often used as highways between villages, but they have not developed enough ice for travel. In spite of open windows, I still have been letting the fire go out for much of the day.

This is ridiculous. The Big Island of Hawaii not only is getting more snow on it’s peak, but temps there are colder than Anchorage. We want our winter back.


The World’s Smallest Carnivore

As I loaded the truck this morning for today’s job, I caught a flash of white out of the corner of my eye. I stood still, watching and waiting. Sure enough, a hyper, yet timid weasel showed itself from my wood pile. It made a rush at me, stopped halfway to size me up, then ran back to the stacked firewood. I kept watching, and the weasel became bolder, venturing out further and further from the wood pile. Eventually, I was ignored completely, and the weasel went about its morning activities, hopping onto a railroad tie, and then slipping down into the marsh.

I assume it’s a least weasel, and not the short tailed variety, due to its small size. It’s coat has already changed to all white, with the exception of it’s black-tipped tail. At approximately six inches long, the weasel is a little bundle of energy. I’ve never had a weasel in my wood shed, and I always felt like I was missing one of the most important aspects of burning wood for heat. I’ve had friends with a resident weasel, and Dick Proenneke famously wrote about his, which he named Milo, in his wonderful journal: “One Man’s Wilderness”. Of course, with a home territory of several acres, the weasel may have just been visiting the wood pile. Still, I’m hoping it takes up residence, even if that multi room condo will be decreasing in size as we progress through the winter months.

Weasels can be ferocious predators, and will take on animals much larger than themselves. With their high metabolic rate, weasels need to consume roughly 40% of their body weight daily.


90 Degrees


The South Fork Salcha Fire as seen from Quartz Lake

Fairbanks hit 90 degrees on Friday, which broke the record of 87 set in 1957. It was also the second earliest date, Fairbanks has seen the temperature reach 90. That record is 28 May, which was set in 1947. 90 degrees, is just too damn hot for Alaska, and those temps can stay in Texas. Luckily, temps are dropping down to a more Alaskan-like 75 for Saturday.

Lightning caused the South Fork Salcha fire, which has closed the Richardson Highway tonight near Birch Lake. The lightning strike occurred Thursday morning, and by Friday evening, the fire had reached 3600 acres. I noticed the scent of burning black spruce Friday morning, as I drove to the jobsite.

Summer has reached the Interior.


Happiness is a day without long underwear in December

Dog Days of Winter
Dog days of winter?

I arrived back in Alaska on December 7th, and today was the first day that the temperature rose above zero since my return. I have no idea how many days it was below zero prior to my return, I’m told that it had been weeks. I do know that we have seen quite a few -30’s of late.

I knew something was off around 4am, when I woke up due to being too warm. It was -8 at 6am, and by noon the temperature had risen to a balmy +12F. Suddenly, my hat is too itchy, my coat too heavy, my feet too warm in the mukluks. It was invigorating!

The talk is for temps in the 20’s for Saturday, and I’m practically giddy.

Sometimes, it’s all about the simple pleasures in life.


Stack Robber

A stack robber, or heat reclaimer, has been a popular heating accessory for decades in Alaska’s Interior. When I outfitted Alaskans for a living, I sold hundreds of these every year.

They install in the chimney pipe of either a wood or oil stove. The only difference between the two units, is that a wood stove reclaimer has the crimping going down towards the stove, and a reclaimer for an oil stove has the crimping going away from the stove.

The heat reclaimer has a series of 10 tubes, which the exhaust from the stove travels around as it makes its way through the chimney. The units are thermostatically controlled: At a certain temperature, a fan in the back kicks on, and blows the warm air out into the room. When the stack temperature drops to a certain level, the fan kicks off.

I do not run mine all of the time, but it’s quite the space heater when temps drop to minus forty or minus fifty. Since Alaska has some of the highest electric costs in the Nation, my bill definitely goes up when I plug anything in. Like anywhere, there is a price to pay for comfort.

The rod in the front, pulls a plate over the ten tubes, and clears them of any creosote that has built up.

As with any wood stove, what matters most, is burning dry wood. I have never had a creosote problem in either my chimney piping or in the stack robber, with dry firewood. There is no short cut here; I usually burn wood that has been seasoned two years, at the minimum.