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Kenai Fjords National Park

National Park Week, Day IV; Today’s Park Theme: Transformation Tuesday

Map of Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords: Where Mountains, Ice and Ocean meet.

Kenai Fjords was first designated a National Monument in 1978. With the passage of ANILCA, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act in 1980, Kenai Fjords officially became a National Park.

Exit Glacier

Kenai Fjords encompasses 669,984 acres, which includes the massive Harding Icefield, which is the source of at least 38 glaciers.

Climbing up to Exit Glacier; Camera: Leica M3, Film: TMax100

Exit Glacier and the Harding Icefield can be reached from the community of Seward. It’s a short drive from town to the visitor center and trail head. The short and relatively easy trail takes one to the foot of the glacier. Exit is retreating at a pretty good clip, and is now losing ice during all seasons.

The Harding Icefield

The Harding Icefield covers over 700 square miles, and that does NOT include the 38-40 glaciers that spawn from it. The hike past Exit Glacier to the icefield can be described as strenuous, but the view, when clear, is absolutely amazing.

An emergency shelter surrounded by the Harding Icefield

Harding Icefield is one of four remaining in the United States, and the largest that is contained completely within the country. It receives, on average, 400 inches of snow each year.

Bear Glacier as seen from Resurrection Bay

Much of the Park is only accessible by water, and sea kayaking is a very popular activity. There are many tidewater glaciers that can be reached from Seward.

Kayakers dwarfed by Aialik Glacier

Two glaciers that I have visited from Seward are: Bear, which is the longest glacier in the Park, and Aialik Glacier, which is a bit more impressive from the water. Bear has receded to the point, that a lake now exists between the ocean and the glacier. The lake is often filled with small icebergs, which makes kayaking interesting. Aialik is a giant ice wall from the water’s surface.

Kenai Fjords National Park received 321,596 visitors in 2018. It is the fourth most visited Park in Alaska, and the closest to the city of Anchorage.

Find your Park!

Saving Daylight?

Map by Brian Brettschneider

Leave it to @Climatologist49 to map out what all Alaskans are thinking today.

The length of day in Fairbanks for today is 11 hours, 38 minutes. A gain of 6 minutes and 44 seconds from yesterday.


Gaining Daylight

Graph Credit: @Climatologist49

March is one of my favorite months here in the Interior. The temps (usually) are at least above zero during the day, there are (usually) outdoor activities galore throughout the area, and the length of daylight is jumping at clips of around 7 minutes a day.

Currently, the length of day is at 10 hours, 49 minutes, with visible light hanging around for 12 hours and 26 minutes. By the last day of March we will be seeing the length of day at 13 hours and 33 minutes.

Map credit: NOAA

Warmer than normal temperatures are forecast for the remainder of the month for much of Alaska. Fairbanks is right in the normal to above normal range. Much of the Lower 48 looks to be trending below normal in temps for next couple of weeks. Only time will tell how close the forecasters hit the target.

Judging from how active and vocal the birds are around my cabin, I think they are looking forward to spring.


Lightning Strikes

Lightning strikes across Alaska in 2020; Map credit: Vaisala

Alaska had 415,231 lightning strikes statewide in 2020. That may seem like a lot, but it’s nothing compared to Texas. In 2020, the Second Largest State in the U.S. had 33,816,168 strikes, which led the nation. The Lone Star state also had the #1 slot in 2019.

Florida led the U.S. in strikes per square mile, with 194 events.

Rhode Island had the least lightning events with only 8551 in 2020.

There were 170 million lightning events across the United States in 2020, which was a drop of 52 million from the previous year.

Even the high Arctic receives some flashes. There were 192 events north of 85°N over the course of two days: July 1-2.

The Washington Monuments was struck on June 4.

Vaisala’s U.S. National Lightning Detection Network, records both in-cloud, and cloud to ground lightning flashes.

Source: Vaisala Annual Lightning Report: 2020


Sharin’ The Blues

Map credit: NWS Caribou, Maine

Alaska and Canada sharing some Christmas weekend love with the Lower 48. You’re welcome!


Already missing our midnight sunsets…

Map credit:@Climatologist49

Our length of day has dropped below 12 hours, here in the Interior of Alaska. 11 hours and 22 minutes, to be exact. The length of visible light has shrunk to 12 hours 59 minutes. Yesterday had 6 minutes and 38 seconds of more daylight.

Sigh.

There have been several hard frosts already, but no snow in Fairbanks. The low, so far at the cabin this autumn, was 22F.

Check those headlamps; it’s all downhill until December 21.


Moose

Alaska’s Big Five:

Moose (Alces alces), is the largest of the deer family, and the Alaska-Yukon subspecies (Alces alces gigas), is the largest of moose.

A small adult female may weigh 800 pounds, while a large adult male can reach double that at 1600 pounds.  Calves are born in the spring, with single births being the majority, but twins are common.  Calves weigh a mere 28-30 pounds at birth, but within 5 months they will often be pushing 300 pounds.  A moose rarely lives to the age of 16 years in the wild.

Cow-Moose-and-Calf-Moose-Grand-Teton-National-Park-Shira-1024x1024.jpg

There are roughly 200,000 moose distributed widely throughout Alaska.  On average, 7000 moose are harvested during the hunting season, providing 3.5 million pounds of meat.

moose_largemap.jpg

 


December 2019: Cold Snap

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Map credit: National Weather Service & NOAA

Interior Alaska had a decent cold snap drop in for the Winter Solstice and Christmas holiday.  From December 17-28, Fairbanks did not see temperatures climb above zero.  By Alaska standards, the period was neither long nor extreme, but we did make some ice, as they say.  For comparison sake:  The 11 day streak of below zero is tied for 42nd longest in the past 50 years. *

The Koyukuk & Yukon River Valleys saw the largest drops, as Allakaket and Manley Hot Springs fell to -60F and -65F respectively.  The Manley temp was the coldest officially recorded in Alaska since Fort Yukon dipped to -66F in 2012.

Fairbanks officially reached -40F for the first time this season on Dec 27.  That was the only day it dropped down to -40 at the cabin, as well.  We had not seen -40F in Fairbanks since January 12, 2019, which is quite the stretch for us.

On December 28, the Deadhorse airport combined -38F temperatures with a 21 mph breeze, to offer a -73 degree windchill to residents of Prudhoe Bay.

No record lows were set during the 11 day period.  The record low statewide for the month of December is -72F, which happened in Chicken, Alaska on New Year’s Eve of 1999.

In spite of the cold snap, there is little doubt that 2019 will be the warmest on record for Alaska.  Currently, the temp outside the cabin remains above zero, some birch logs are smoldering in the wood stove, and a window is open, as I type this out, dressed in shorts and a t-shirt.

Interior Cabin Life.

*@AlaskaWx 


Closing a fishery

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Collecting Pacific cod samples; Photo in Public Domain, credit to NOAA

For the first time, the federal government has closed the cod fishery in the Gulf of Alaska for the 2020 season.  The reason: Low stock.

The Blob, a marine heatwave that hit the Gulf in 2014 is taking the blunt of the blame.  Ocean temperatures rose 4-5 degrees, with some areas of the Gulf rising by 7 degrees.  The increase in water temperature killed off young cod.

Cod usually return to the fishery after three years or more.  They can live up to 14 years, and tend to reach a weight of 12 pounds.

After the heatwave, cod numbers crashed from 113,830 metric tons in 2014 to 46,080 in 2017.  The numbers have been dropping ever since.

The closing will have a huge effect on the winter economies of places like Homer and Kodiak.  Prior to The Blob, the fishery was a $50 million industry for Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

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“The Blob” in 2014 and 2019; Image credit: NOAA

Unfortunately, the blob’s sequel looks to be heading back to Alaskan waters.  As of September 2019, the water temp of Blob 2 was only two degrees shy of the original.


Kolmakovsky Redoubt

The Blockhouse; built 1841

The Russian-American Company was established in 1799. The RAC received a renewable 20-year charter, which granted the company exclusive rights over trade in Russia’s North American territory.

The fur trade led the RAC to build a trading post on the Middle Kuskokwim River in 1841, which they named Kolmakovsky Redoubt. The blockhouse, above, was the first building erected. Eight more structures would also be constructed.

A map showing location of Kolmakovsky Redoubt on the Middle Kuskokwim

Kolmakovsky was the only Russian redoubt to be constructed in Alaska’s Interior. After the United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867, the redoubt eventually transferred to the Alaska Commercial Company.

The blockhouse stood alongside the Kuskokwim River for over 80 years. In 1929, the building was donated to the University of Alaska. The eight-sided log building was dismantled, the logs numbered, and then shipped to Fairbanks. It remained in storage for the next 50 years.

In 1982, the blockhouse, which has a diameter of 17′, was reconstructed behind the Museum of the North, on the UAF campus. In 2009, the University received a grant from the “Saving America’s Treasures” program to to do an all out restoration. A concrete pad was poured, any rotten logs were fabricated as the originals, and the roof was rebuilt. All but one of the interior horizontal roof supports are original.

The spruce logs are all connected by interlocking dovetail notches. There are no windows, only a low doorway, and three narrow musket slots. The Kolmakovsky blockhouse is the only Russian blockhouse ever found with a sod roof, the rest were all built with a plank roof.

Today, the blockhouse from Kolmakovsky Redoubt is still located near the Museum of the North on the University of Alaska – Fairbanks campus. The Kolmakovsky Redoubt site on the Kuskokwim has been placed on the Alaska Heritage list of historic properties and archaeological sites. A detailed excavation of the site was completed during the 1966 and 1967 summers by UCLA professor Wendall H. Oswalt. Well over 5000 artifacts were excavated, which are now a part of the collection at the Museum of the North.