Bird’s eye view: First day of ice on The Pond. The beaver’s trail can be seen to the left.
For this season, we had the first 24 hour period over the weekend where the temperature did not get above freezing. It came 11 days later than on average.
The Pond received its first full coat of ice by Sunday morning. Thin as it is, one could see where the beaver swam under the ice.
The fire in the wood stove is still not going full time, however. One every other night has been enough to keep the chill out of the cabin. Anything more would drive me out of the building from the heat. As it is, an evening fire requires at least one open window at these temps.
Recent paths of Arctic ice floes; Source credit: Thomas Krumpen, Alfred Wegener Institute; Institute of Environmental Physics, University of Bremen
Researchers from around the globe have congregated on Alaska’s Arctic coast. They are planning a once in a generation expedition into the heart of one of the harshest environments on Earth: The Arctic.
It’s a 12 month, 17 nation, 300 scientist effort aboard the German ice breaker Polarstern, to document climate change in the Arctic. This coming autumn, the Polarstern will be positioned in a remote part of the Siberian Arctic, and then wait to be frozen in the ice. The research vessel will then flow with the floe; traveling with the ice as it moves across the Arctic Ocean.
Only twice has a transpolar drift happened successfully in history. Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen did it first in 1893. Ten years ago, a small sailing ship named the Tara also completed a transpolar drift without the sea ice crushing its hull.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the National Science Foundation and universities from Alaska-Fairbanks to Oregon State to Dartmouth are involved. Most northern nations are playing a role, as well. Russia, China and Sweden have all committed ships and aircraft for resupply support. Japan and Switzerland have developed new research equipment especially for the expedition.
Unlike Antarctica, there is no land at the north pole to build a permanent research station. The RV Polarstern is the next best thing. At any one time, 60 people will be living and working on the ice breaker. Resupply will take place every 60 days, weather permitting. Researchers will also be swapped out during resupply runs.
Graph credit: National Snow & Ice Data Center
Time is running short for a expedition like this one. The key is to find old sea ice, 4-5 years old, and get locked into that. Since 1980, 95% of Arctic sea ice that is 4+ years old, has been lost. In the graph above, the lightest yellow is 1 year old ice, the dark purple 5+ years old.
It should be an interesting study, although researchers on board the ice breaker from December to February will not see the sun. They should see polar bears, however.
The picture was taken the last day of March. I have never seen The Pond with as much bad ice this early. The open hole is from methane release, which caused the ice to thin just above the methane pocket.
The Nenana River has some open water already, downstream from the Ice Classic Tripod. The earliest the Tanana River has gone out is April 20. Short of an epic cold snap, that record will be broken in 2019.
The World Ice Art Championships has returned to Fairbanks. The Ice Park opened on Valentines Day. I checked it out the other day, but the vast majority of the sites had blocks like the one pictured above. No carvers were working when I stopped by.
Fairbanks is known for its crystal clear ice, which the carvers love to use. There will be single block, double block and multi-block carving contests. Plus, there are single carver and two person carver events. I’ll stop by a few more times after the carving is done, and everything on display.
The “luge” track, set up for the kids, looked particularly fast.
An ice outhouse: as long as there is a styrofoam seat…
The Ice Park is located at the Tanana Valley Fairgrounds, and is open 10am to 10pm, until nature melts the carvings.
The monthly ice thickness check on the Tanana River took place recently for the month of February. I find this fascinating, so don’t be surprised if I post the March report too.
For most years, the ice thickness can run around 40 inches in February. Even after a week of -30F weather, and lows in the -44F range, there was no change in ice thickness from January. The Tanana River still has 16 inches of ice above the flowing water.
The earliest date on record for the ice to go out on the Tanana is April 20, which happened twice: 1940 & 1998. It certainly looks like that record could be on thin ice.