Tag Archives: UAF

Water meets Gravity

The disappearance of Harry Potter Lake:

Harry Potter Lake and Judy Kayaak Creek in 2018; Photo credit: Chris Arp

An arctic lake, with the amusing name of Harry Potter Lake, undertook a disappearing act this summer. The lake was large enough that someone standing on one shore, could not see across it. Running within 30 yards of the lake, and ten feet below it in elevation was Judy Kayaak Creek. Scientists were working in the area because oil companies were interested in developing it, and they noticed that the dam was about to break.

Setting up trail cameras and watching via satellite, the lake did not disappoint. Once the strip of tundra between the lake and creek was breached, gravity and the power of water took over. Within 24 hours, most of Harry Potter Lake was rushing towards the Arctic Ocean.

At the height of the rush, Judy Kayaak Creek had an estimated 100 times its normal volume. The village of Nuiqsut had been warned of the potential flooding, but no ensuing damage was reported.

Harry Potter Lake and Judy Kayaak Creek after the breach; photo credit: Allen Bondurant

Sources: UAF Geophysical Institute/Ned Rozell


Falling short of 90

Map credit: NOAA/ACCAP

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.


Top Tourists?

The red-breasted sapsucker

A new tourism study released by the University of Alaska Fairbanks turned a few heads recently. The group of tourists that spend the most money and stay the longest in Alaska are birdwatchers. In fact, birders spend twice as much time in Alaska when they visit than the non-birders do. In 2016, birdwatchers spent over $300 million in Alaska.

The study probably shouldn’t have surprised as many people as it did. Alaska is a birdwatching mecca. Alaska is home to the largest concentration of shore birds in the world. There are some 530 species of birds that have been documented in Alaska, 55 of which are considered rare.

So, if you want to see a red-breasted sapsucker, I suggest the rainforest of Southeast Alaska. As for Fairbanks, we have a very active and vocal raven population.


Meanwhile, north of the Brooks Range…

UAF’s Toolik Field Station

Wildfire Update:

Current wildfires over 100,000 acres; Map credit: Alaska Fire Service

The state of Alaska currently has over 225 wildfires burning within its borders and over 1000 firefighters battling the blazes. So far this fire season, over 2 million acres have burned, which is the earliest date to hit that milestone in the past two decades.

Wildfire acreage; Graph credit: ACCAP

A red flag warning has been in effect throughout Interior Alaska, and fireworks were banned over the weekend. The Borough implemented a $1000 fine for anyone caught setting off fireworks, which did make for a relatively quiet 4th of July.

Nature ignored the fines however, as we have had a very active few days of lightning. Between June 28 and July 4th, the state had 25,000 strikes, and Tuesday alone saw another 4500 lightning strikes, which started 13 new wildfires.

I have not seen the final numbers for June, but the month was expected to contend with the driest Junes on record statewide. Which is saying something, as it’s a pretty big state.


Happy 4th of July


Shades of 2004

ACRC Panorama Cam from UAF Campus

Fairbanks is smoked in. We have a wildfire 60 miles to the southwest and another about the same distance to the northwest. Both were started by lightning.

I went out for lunch today. Upon my return, I smelled like a campfire.

It’s thick.

PM2.5 Levels on Tuesday

The smoke is not as bad as in 2004, when over 6 million acres burned up across the state. That year, Fairbanks was within a ring of fire, and a change in the wind direction did very little for relief.

Still, it’s bad enough. On the plus side, I hear the pollen count is down, but that has never bothered me anyway. The forecast says we are a week away from any chance of rain.


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


Smoke from a distant fire


Totem House

Totem House, Hoonah, Alaska; circa 1915