Alaska Science Forum

March 9, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
With dogs' breath fogging the 30-below zero air at their knees, 71 Iditarod mushers steamed their way down the frozen Chena River in Fairbanks on March 6. Upstream, just a few miles behind them, 500 ducks were surviving in a one-mile stretch of open water.   You might think the mallards that did not migrate from the subarctic in fall would be skinny and weak, but a UAF graduate student...
March 3, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
In early March up on the frozen Arctic Coastal Plain, as the wind sculpts snow into drifts, it’s hard to tell northern lakes from surrounding tundra. But lurking deep beneath that flat white world are toothy predators as long as your arm.   In pools 60 feet down, lake trout are somehow passing the long winter. A graduate student has sharpened the focus on a familiar species that lives as...
February 23, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
As another major rainstorm hit California in February, downtown San Francisco surpassed its normal rain total for an entire year. Reservoirs in the high country were spilling over. So ended a five-year drought in the state that some people attributed to human-caused climate change.   Those pictures of dried-up California lakes bothered Syun-Ichi Akasofu, who recently gave a talk "The...
February 16, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
When they launch, the four rockets now pointed northward from Poker Flat Research Range will add to the 345 that have arced over northern Alaska during the past 48 years. Recently, Chuck Deehr remembered number one.   Deehr, 80, is a retired space physicist at the Geophysical Institute. He had just earned his doctorate in 1968 when he was among those enlisted to help with the first mission...
February 9, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
By the end of this century, Alaskans may be enjoying tropical evening breezes for about a week each year. That's an increase from the almost zero such nights we currently savor.   But it could happen, according to a graduate student who has tightened the grids of computer models to perhaps offer a more detailed glimpse of Alaska's future.   A tropical night is one with a low...
February 2, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
Last month, villagers in Savoonga landed a bowhead whale. Before 2017, in every January people can remember, sea ice surrounded St. Lawrence Island, locking it in for the winter. Boat-launching and whale-taking were not possible.   Now, the disc of ice chunks floating on the northern oceans is smaller than any recent year except 2010. The Bering Sea west of the Alaska mainland is wide open...
January 26, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
The second-largest earthquake on the planet in 1904 happened somewhere in Alaska. It could have been St. Michael, Rampart, Fairbanks, Coldfoot or a place called Sunrise on the Kenai Peninsula. People felt the magnitude 7.3 at each place.   If an earthquake happens today, within a few minutes Alaska Earthquake Center researchers post a map with its latitude/longitude (the epicenter) and the...
January 24, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
Hello old friend.   I thought you were dead. Sorry, but remember last year, when you didn't show up? It was the first recorded winter in Fairbanks when the thermometer at the airport didn't register minus 30 Fahrenheit. I didn't know what to think.   But here you are, a blob straight from the North Pole, squatting over middle Alaska. No records, but some impressive, dimly remembered...
January 24, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
T. Neil Davis has died at 84, in his Fairbanks home.   The scientist/author/doer was a graduate student and later director at UAF's Geophysical Institute. In the dynamic early days of the place where people study everything from the center of the Earth to the center of the sun, Davis was there: flying over Lituya Bay to see hillsides scarred to 1,700 feet by the tallest splash wave ever...
January 24, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
SAN FRANCISCO — On rare winter mornings here, a skim of ice forms on sidewalk puddles. But water's solid form is mostly an abstraction in this land of blooming flowers and the hummingbirds that visit them. Except for the week of the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union.   Dozens of the 22,000 scientists gathering here for the week are talking about ice, mostly about how much of...