Tag Archives: history

Varying Frost

Map by AlaskaWx

I found this map fascinating. There is almost a month differential across the Fairbanks Borough on the date of the first freeze this fall. I was in the August 18 Camp, which my zucchini never really recovered from.

Many of the recording areas with “After Sept 14”, will fall today, the 15th, as we are expected to drop into the Blue Zone by morning. My place was at 23F on Tuesday morning.

Officially, the Fairbanks Airport is on a decent streak of 135 days above freezing. Which is the fourth longest since recording began. 144 days is the record, which happened in 1974.

There was a 4.9 magnitude earthquake just east of Fairbanks on Monday night, just before 10pm. The cabin went through a decent shake.


Right Whales in rare Alaska sighting

The population of right whales in Alaska waters is estimated to be around 30. The animals were heavily hunted for decades, and even picked up their name because they were the “right” whale to hunt: Right whales are slow moving and float when killed.

The eastern population of North Pacific Right Whales call Alaska home, but they are rarely seen. In August, however, two groups of two whales each were spotted in the waters around Kodiak. Of the four whales, two were known to researchers, but two were previously unknown. Four right whales in a month may not seem impressive, but those whales amount to over 10% of the entire population.

Video courtesy of NOAA


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.


Some summer numbers

Map credit: ACCAP/UAF/NOAA

Wildfires within Alaska burned less than half the usual acreage in 2020, which is not really a surprise with an unusually wet summer.

Fairbanks had its 12th warmest and 20th wettest summer in the past 90 years.

Anchorage saw its 23rd warmest and 28th wettest in the past 70 years.

Juneau had its 10th warmest and 15th wettest in the past 81 years.

The western coast of Alaska was just plain wet.

Bristol Bay had some very rough seas during the fishing season, but that didn’t keep them from setting a record year for sockeye salmon.

The Yukon River drainage had no salmon in 2020. No chums. No kings. Nada. The entire fishery was closed.

One bright spot was the amount of sea ice in the Chukchi Sea in August. It was the most we have seen in 15 years.

Denali National Park has already seen 6″ of the white stuff.

Fairbanks has already seen frost.


“After the Morning Dip”

Oil on masonite, circa 1988, by Frederick Machetanz (1908-2002)

Sandhills & Leopold

One of my favorite summer neighbors is the sandhill crane, and that often surprises people. Like the sight of the aurora on a cold, winter night, the sound of a sandhill crane bugling will stop me in my tracks and I immediately scan the sky.

There are still a few sandhills hanging on around Fairbanks, but many have started their flight south to winter in warmer climates. I’ll miss their calls, but I’ll try to make do with the many nights of northern lights dancing across the sky.


If Curtiss-Wright designed ceiling fans


The White Stuff

Denali National Park Webcam

Friday morning at the Eielson Visitor Center, Denali National Park. Elevation: 3300′.

In another weather note: As of Friday evening, Fairbanks has seen 175% of normal rainfall for the entire month of August. That puts us at the 8th wettest August since 1930, although both 2018 and 2019 had more rainfall at this point than this August.


Atka Volcanic Complex

Earthquake activity on Atka Island

The southern portion of Atka Island is older than the north, with some volcanic rock dating back 5 million years. The active northern part of the island once had one large cone, which was lost in a large eruption, and is now peppered with several smaller volcanos.

A volcanic complex can have several vents, and a widely varying composition of lava. Seismic activity within a complex can be difficult to pinpoint the source of the activity. Which vent is rumbling now? Some of those smaller vents have developed into stratovolcanoes.

Korovin Volcano has been very active in recent times, while Mount Kliuchef last erupted in 1812. The Atka Complex recently was elevated to a Level Yellow, due to seismic activity on the island. Interestingly, the swarm of activity is not near the known suspects, but several kilometers the the west and southwest, and approximately 10 miles from the community of Atka.

Source: AVO


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.