It’s the time of year where we all watch the rivers up here. Break-up in Fairbanks has lost the drama it had in the early days, before the flood control tamed the Chena River. There was a time when the Cushman Street bridge was rebuilt every year after the ice took it out.
Elsewhere across Alaska, the shifting ice still packs a punch. The ice jam in the above photo has caused flooding 90 miles upstream. Tanana, Alaska has experienced minor flooding from this. Communities all along the Yukon, from Eagle to Buckland have experienced severe flooding.
The Kobuk River has been added to the flood stage list. An ice jam could bring flooding from Kobuk to Ambler if the ice doesn’t break up soon.
In Fairbanks, we saw our first 80F degree day this season on Friday. It broke a record for not just the high temp of the day, but also broke a record for the highest low temperature for the day. It was the earliest 60F degree low on record for Fairbanks. It was certainly noticeable when I went out in the morning.
Fairbanks had 5″ of snow in October, which is trending downward for the month. Between 1981 and 2010, October saw an average of more than 10″. Fairbanks has not seen an October with significantly above average snowfall in 18 years. Not that I’m complaining about that statistic. I’m in the “delay the snowfall for as long as possible” camp.
Sunday morning saw our first below zero temp of the season. It was -10F at the cabin. That is two days later than the average first dip into the negatives.
The Tanana River is at flood stage near Fairbanks due to an ice dam. We often think of ice dams causing trouble at break up, but they can cause havoc in the autumn too.
The length of day on Halloween in Fairbanks was 7 hours and 58 minutes. All Saints Day will be 6 minutes and 45 seconds shorter.
The record low on Halloween is -30F. The record high for the day is 46F. The average is +5 and +20 respectively. 2022 was slightly cooler than average.
The western coast of Alaska was pummeled over the weekend by the remnants of Typhoon Merbok. Sustained winds over 50 mph, with gusts over 90; 50 foot waves and a storm surge 15 feet above high tide left many evacuating to higher ground.
It was the worst storm our Western Coast has experienced in 50 years, and it has been 70 years since a storm this fierce hit in September.
To its credit, The National Weather Service was remarkably accurate in its forecast of the storm. Several days out, the NWS was getting out the word that this was going to be a devastating flooding event. All the ingredients came together perfectly to create some “very angry seas”.
High winds have taken roofs off of buildings, one building in Nome suffered from a fire, and the storm surge has evicted hundreds. Many took shelter in schools, or to higher ground.
My favorite village of Newtok has been flooded, and many have taken to the school for shelter. The riverbank at Newtok has eroded between 10-15 feet overnight. Newtok is one of several villages in Alaska in dire need of relocation due to erosion and sinking ground.
Water levels in many flooded villages are not expected to drop until Monday, and in some cases Tuesday. The timing of the storm is particularly difficult, with winter on the horizon. The village of Shaktoolik lost its sea berm to the storm, which leaves it vulnerable to additional winter storms. The village of Chevak lost much of its fishing fleet when boats sank or were damaged in the storm.
We really have two seasons in Alaska: Winter, and Preparing for Winter. Preparing for winter in Western Alaska is now going to be a huge challenge.
After a two year hiatus, the citizen scientist event, Cook Inlet Belugas Count, is back on for 2022. The event, hosted by NOAA, will take place Saturday, September 17.
Canaries of the Sea: Belugas are quite vocal: They chirp, squeak, click and whistle. Alaska has five populations of the white whale, and the Cook Inlet population is the only one listed as endangered. At last count, the population was thought to be around 279 whales.
Beluga whales, like humpbacks, can be identified as individuals by their natural markings. Many are known by their numbers, and a few, like the bears of Katmai, have nicknames.
Members of the public are invited to join NOAA at stations around Cook Inlet to identify and count beluga whales. The event is free and open to everyone, and families are encouraged to join the beluga celebration. Details can be found on the Beluga Count facebook page.
Even though Alaska had a warm and very dry start to summer, the state has not seen 90F yet. although some recording stations have hit 89F. A few northern locations in the Yukon and Northwest Territories broke the 90 degree mark, but none in Alaska.
According to NOAA’s extended outlook, the entire Lower 48 is forecast to have above average temperatures, while the entire state of Alaska is forecast to see below average temps. I’m curious as to how often that happens.
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.
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.