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May 19, 2022

Wading into the icy Yukon River for science

Snow geese flew in a ragged V overhead, rasping as they looked down upon Alaska’s bumpy face for the first time in 2022. Nine hundred feet below, the Yukon River flowed by quietly, except for the dull thuds of icebergs skidding along the river bottom near the shore. Sensing a break in the ice traffic, U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist Heather Best — wearing chest waders with a hole she would soon discover — stepped into the river.

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May 13, 2022

Alaska’s big river breaks up at Eagle

While most of the town was sleeping, the ice slipped out. Breakup happened on the Yukon River here at its first settlement in the United States at around 2 a.m. on Saturday, May 7, 2022. That’s when meltwater rushing from side creeks into the colossal groove of the Yukon lifted a winter-hardened sheet in front of the town.

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May 12, 2022

Awaiting river breakup on the Yukon

Andy Bassich lives on the south bank of the Yukon River, about 12 miles downstream from Eagle, Alaska, the first community in America along the largest waterway in Alaska. Like all of the few-thousand people who live along the big river in Alaska, Bassich hopes that river ice formed by the cold air of winter will continue to disappear in a mushy fashion, one that does not cause flooding.

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May 2, 2022

Alaska’s water crop is a natural resource

As much of Alaska’s landmass crosses the magical temperature threshold that turns ice and snow into water, it’s time to consider the state’s richness in a resource more essential to humans than oil or gas. Clear as gin, brown as iced tea or tinted aquamarine by glacial dust, Alaska’s freshwater supply is so abundant the numbers are hard to comprehend.

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April 22, 2022

His 48th summer on top of the world

This June, George Divoky will refurbish a cabin that sits on a lonely gravel island north of Alaska. He was not planning a remodel this year. Sometime during the winter, a polar bear tore through a plywood wall of the cabin Divoky moved 20 years ago to Cooper Island.

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April 11, 2022

Live-trapping lynx in the far north

Knut Kielland, a professor with UAF’s Department of Biology and Wildlife, used to trap lynx for their fur. Here, he has captured this 22-pound female lynx as part of an Alaska-wide project he leads to better understand the ecology of the animal.

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April 5, 2022

Real sandbox model meets “numerical sandbox” model…an interesting comparison of dry granular media and discrete element simulation

By Philip S. Prince Back in February, I saw several references to the CDEM discrete element modeling tool on Twitter. One of the example simulations reminded me of a “real” sandbox model I made a couple of years ago while experimenting with different material properties. The two results are shown below, with the CDEM example on the left and the real sand model on the right. The CDEM example above …

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March 31, 2022

Happenings north of the Arctic Circle

Though the calendar calls it springtime, the thermometer on the truck reads minus 28 F on this sunny morning a few days past spring equinox. I am riding shotgun with Knut Kielland, an ecologist at the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He has invited me to join him for a week north of the Arctic Circle — 66.6 degrees north latitude, about 150 miles from Fairbanks.

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March 8, 2022

Lidar reveals geologic details of the “worst” coal mine in the Valley of Virginia

Despite its apparently good location, all was not well at the Altoona Mine. Coal seams in the mine were too distorted and mixed with surrounding rock to be easily extracted, leading to its ultimate failure. Early 20th century geologist Marius Campbell addresses this issue at length in the 1925 report The Valley Coal Fields of Virginia, twice calling Altoona’s location “the worst” in the general area and the obvious reason for the mine’s closure.

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February 14, 2022

The waddling boulder…a storm-induced trundle* event?

This was (and remains) the first and only boulder I have personally seen that has rolled or tumbled and come to rest recently enough for its track to be visible in the field. I thought the diagonal gouge marks were particularly interesting. For whatever reason, they caused me to visualize a slow, “waddling” rolling style like that of an American football or rugby ball rolling downhill.

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