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Lat 65 Roundup

Lightning strikes on Monday; Map credit: AICC

After a lull in lightning strikes to start the season, the skies have been very luminous of late. Strikes across the state have been widespread since the weekend. Over 5600 strikes on Monday, with over 15,000 strikes for the three days of Sunday-Tuesday.

A wildfire started near the Dalton Highway and the Arctic Circle, which closed a popular campground there.

So far, over 1 million acres have burned in Alaska this season, which is the earliest we have crossed that threshold in many decades. At least since 1969, Alaska has not seen 1 million acres burn by this date. Records were a bit sketchier back then, as recording acres burned in rural Alaska is a bit challenging.

Fairbanks hit 80F for the first time this season on the Solstice.

As of Monday, Alaska had seen 289 wildfires this season.

Smoke rolling in on Wednesday night


Magma Rising

Mount Edgecumbe displacement; Graphic credit: AVO

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about the swarm of earthquakes underneath Mount Edgecumbe. The numbers are in, and radar satellite data reveals a ground deformation around the volcano. Data was analyzed for the past 7.5 years, and since 2018, an uplift around Mt Edgecumbe has been constant. The peak activity, around the crater, has shown an average uplift of 3.4″ per year since 2018, and a total uplift of 10.6″.

Earthquakes in and around Mt Edgecumbe, Map credit: AVO

With the data of the ground deformation, AVO has come to the conclusion that the swarm of earthquakes is due to the movement of magma below Mount Edgecumbe, and not due to tectonic activity.

Mount Edgecumbe, a 3200 foot high stratovolcano, lies 15 miles to the west of the community of Sitka. There is no volcanic monitoring system on Edgecumbe, but there is at Sitka. AVO plans to install instruments closer to the volcano in the near future.

The rising of magma under a volcano does not necessarily mean that an eruption is imminent. The deformation and earthquakes could cease at any time. If an eruption were to occur, warning signs such as increased rate of deformation, and an increase in the earthquake swarms, would give advance warning of an eruption.


Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve

National Parks Week: Day 6

A lone caribou in Gates of the Arctic

As much as I love Denali and Wrangell-St Elias National Parks, I think Gates of the Arctic is Alaska’s crown jewel within the national park system. It is the second largest of our national parks, and its entirety is located north of the Arctic Circle.

Mapping Alaska’s National Parks, with Gates of the Arctic highlighted

Due to the lack of any roads, and its remote location, Gates of the Arctic is the least visited of our national parks. All of that only adds to the appeal for me. In 2016, Gates of the Arctic received 10,047 visitors. In the same year, the Grand Canyon saw over 6 million.

The Park has six Wild and Scenic rivers: the Kobuk, John, Alatna, north fork of the Koyukuk, Tinayguk, and part of the famed Noatak. The Noatak is at the top of my list of rivers to float.

Caribou passing through the Gates

I have only been to the Gates of the Arctic once. A fly in camping trip. One evening, we watched a herd of caribou that probably numbered over 10,000. The entire valley below us was filled with these tundra travelers. It was one of the most incredible sights I have ever seen. The next morning, when we peaked over the ridge line, we were surprised to see that there was not one animal left in the valley. The entire herd had moved off, on their endless migration.


The Iditarod 2022

The 50th running of the Last Great Race gets its ceremonial start this Saturday in downtown Anchorage. Mushers will then officially get the race going on Sunday from the town of Willow. The Iditarod Sled Dog Race runs annually in March and commemorates the Serum Run of 1925.

The race is mostly back to normal in 2022, with the trail following the northern route, which happens in even numbered years. All mushers must be vaccinated and will be tested during the race. All officials and volunteers must take daily tests until the race ends.

One musher, Nicolas Petit, recently tested positive for Covid-19, and had to scratch from the race. Four-time Iditarod champ, Jeff King, will run his dogs in his place. The 66 year old King last won in 2006.

49 mushers will race across the 49th State, including 13 rookies.

Map of the Iditarod Trail

Map and image credit: The Iditarod Sled Dog Race


Warm Week Ahead

Map and info credit: NOAA

That is, at least for Alaska.

On Sunday morning, it was -22F at the cabin, and just a few days before, it was at -31 when I went to work. The temperature has been rising throughout the day, and it looks to be a warm week for us, with temps forecast at above freezing.

As often happens, when temps rise in Alaska during the winter months, temps can cool a bit down in the Lower 48. Although, that’s not to say they will be seeing too many -31F’s.


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.


Enjoy your Polar Vortex

Honestly…

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why the Lower 48 insists on stealing our polar air. Send it back home when the novelty has worn off.

-Alaska


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


Inverting the temp

Map credit: NWS-Fairbanks, @alaskawx

One of the many quirks of Fairbanks is the temperature inversions that takes place in the Tanana Valley and the surrounding hills. The temperature difference, as the map shows, can be quite substantial. Those living up in the hills, will leave relatively moderate temps, and drive down into increasingly chilling temps and the growing murk of ice fog.

It was -36F at the cabin on Monday morning, which does add to the motivation to return to life in the hills. But the firewood bin is full, the stack robber cleaned and throwing out heat of its own, and overall, life is just fine.


Starting to get chilly

The Atigun River on a much warmer day

The Atigun River HADS station recorded the State’s first -50F reading of the season on Sunday morning. The weather station is located just north of Atigun Pass, where the Dalton Highway crosses the Atigun River.

Monday morning will bring temperatures close to -40 to Fairbanks. The last time Fairbanks saw -40 in November was in 2011.

Graphic credit: NWS-Fairbanks