Alaska Science Forum

June 26, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
While tightroping on tussock heads in a bog off the Chandalar River, two companions and I heard a waterfall. Strange. Looking through binoculars, we saw a knee-high fountain of clear water in the tundra. The flow was as thick as your leg. We squished over to investigate. The three of us had never seen water spewing from the ground in such a way. The clear water was so cold it burned, forcing us...
June 22, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
MIDDLE FORK, CHANDALAR RIVER — Two-hundred miles straight north of my home in Fairbanks, I'm at the northern edge of a forest that carpets the continent all the way to Labrador. Here for a meteorite search with an astronomer, I have helicoptered into a place humming with life. This dark spot on the nighttime map of North America is not always in this active state, with the squeak of bank swallows...
June 22, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
NEAR THE MIDDLE FORK, CHANDALAR RIVER — Our knees pressed into crunchy lichen, three of us hunch around a rock the size of a postage stamp. Peter Jenniskens, a meteor astronomer with the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, California, is smiling. This rock is unusual: it was sitting on top of day-glow lichen and is dark as a charcoal briquette. “I’m very...
June 8, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
On February 26 at 1:06 p.m., someone in northern Alaska may have seen a torch of light in the cold daytime sky. On that afternoon, satellites detected a meteoric fireball headed toward Earth. An asteroid six feet in diameter penetrated the atmosphere at 13 miles per second, piercing the protective shell of gases at a steep angle. Arriving from the northwest, the asteroid exploded 21 miles above...
June 8, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
When Carl Roland was hiking the high country in an Alaska national park not long ago, he thought the landscape looked different than any park in the Lower 48. The alpine zone seemed to be carpeted with more plant species than the much-larger forests and wetlands in the valleys below. When Roland looked at plant inventories from a large chunk of Denali National Park, he confirmed a pattern that...
May 24, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
In a gorgeous warm May this year, we have not yet sniffed the bitter scent of flaming spruce. When we do, many of us will think back to a year that still haunts us. In summer 2004, a Vermont-sized patch of Alaska burned in wildfires. That hazy summer was the most extreme fire year in the half century people have kept score. Here's how it happened. May 2004 was warmer than average in the Interior...
April 13, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
A scientist named Victor Hessler once made an aurora detector by driving two metal rods in the ground a few hundred feet apart and stringing a wire between them. When voltage changed along the wire, a bell rang. Hessler then pulled on his boots and went outside to take black-and-white aurora photos. During the recent St. Patrick's Day geomagnetic storm, people all over North America became...
April 13, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
If a lake drains on top of the world, will anyone hear it? Ben Jones and Chris Arp did. The Anchorage- and Fairbanks-based scientists placed sensors in a bathtub-shaped lake on Alaska's northern coast a few years ago. From what they can tell, the lake topped its rim and eroded/thawed a channel to the Beaufort Sea on July 5, 2014. With a flow greater than some northern rivers, the lake's water...
April 13, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
As he contemplates another long snowmachine journey, Matthew Sturm might consider packing a raincoat. Rain fell in Interior Alaska a few weeks before his trip, glazing supercooled highways and forming a crust on the snowpack. "You remember all the jokes about how climate change is going to be good for (Alaskans)?" said Sturm, a snow scientist with UAF's Geophysical Institute....
April 13, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
Fairbanks's air turns bitter every winter as we fill it with woodsmoke and other things, but just down the road Denali National Park has the clearest air measured among America's monitored national parks.   Scientists at Colorado State University have taken a close look at Denali air as captured near the park entrance. A monitor there pulls air through a set of four filters, getting samples every...