Alaska Science Forum

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May 25, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
While boating down the Yukon River during the hottest summer recorded in Alaska (1915, when Fort Yukon reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit), missionary Hudson Stuck wrote about the wildlife that most bothered his party. “With the failure of a little breeze and the overcasting of the sky, the weather grows oppressively sultry and a swarm of horse-flies, or moose-flies as they are called in these parts...
May 19, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
Larger than West Virginia, the Kenai Peninsula has the best of Alaska: coastal rainforests, two icefields, majestic deepwater fiords and a sapphire river home to the largest king salmon ever caught. It also has some of the best-documented changes of any geographic feature in Alaska, enough that a biologist now sees the peninsula evolving into a human-driven system. John Morton of the Kenai...
May 12, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
When botanist Janet Jorgenson first visited a patch of tundra east of Kaktovik in 1988, it was flat, dry and thick with 29 species of lichens and mosses. Now, Tapkaurak is wet, gullied and fragrant with sedges and grasses. And, like other parts of Alaska's North Slope, it is a few feet farther from the clouds. Tapkaurak is part of what might be an arctic-wide thawing, draining and settling of the...
May 6, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
CIRCLE — As the pilot of a chartered Cessna 206 curved in for a landing above the Yukon River, his passengers squinted at white river ice that clung to the south bank near town. Chocolate brown open water filled river channels both upstream and downstream of the ice. In the seat behind the pilot, Ed Plumb of the National Weather Service scribbled in a notebook. Kerry Seifert of Alaska's Division...
April 29, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
NEAR BALLAINE LAKE — Over the blat of engines and hum of tires on nearby Farmers Loop, Mark Spangler hears the chuckles of the animal he is studying. Male wood frogs in a one-acre pond on the campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks are singing a song of spring. The mating calls of several frogs ring off the eardrum. It's a piercing noise created by air in the inflated cheeks of a creature...
April 22, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
NEAR MILLER CREEK — Crouching amid scratchy spruce branches and surrounded by feet of snow, Amir Allam jabs half-frozen soil with the spikey base of a white cylinder. The seismologist twists the 6-pound seismometer to orient it northward. Then he clicks a cable to a magnetic connection on top. "Starting operation," says a tinny voice that sounds like a woman from London. The words come from a...
April 15, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
This morning, through the west window, I noticed a flash of white. I looked up from breakfast to see a short-tailed weasel popping from a hole in the snowpack. He was sleek and streamlined and snow-white, except for where his tail looked like he dipped it in black paint. Later, a leggy snowshoe hare bounded away, and then paused nervously. Those sightings inspired a visit to my neighbor, who...
April 8, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
A landslide last fall caused a giant wave of the type not seen in Alaska since the storied 1958 event in Lituya Bay. After a period of heavy rains, a mountainside near Tyndall Glacier collapsed into a fiord of Icy Bay on October 17, 2015. The displaced water generated a wave that sheared alders more than 500 feet up on a hillside across from the slide. To put that in perspective, the 2011 tsunami...
April 1, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
About 1,000 years ago, Norse explorer Leif Ericson bumped into the New World at Newfoundland. The old world was filling up, with 300,000 people living in the Roman capital of Constantinople. Up here in Alaska, the ancestors of today's coastal Natives were quietly having one of the more successful runs in human history. The Thule people of Alaska's west and north coasts lived a good life for...
March 25, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
Ships with no humans aboard have long ridden the seas, often floating with supernatural stories of being piloted by dead crew members or becoming visible to sailors and then vanishing. Alaska has its own ghost ship. Workers for the Hudson Bay Company abandoned the S.S. Baychimo just offshore of Wainwright 85 years ago. Sea ice trapped the 230-foot cargo steamship during an early winter in October...