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January 23, 2020

Denali Park Road failings and other stories

By the summer of 2020, a landslide will bury a portion of the road from the Denali National Park entrance to Wonder Lake. That’s the conclusion of Zena Robert, a UAF graduate student who visited the park in summer 2019. Last summer, she did a ground survey of giant blobs of frozen hillside that sometimes ooze over the 92-mile road, which workers built from 1923 to 1938.


January 13, 2020

Northern news from a massive conference

Here are a few scribbles from my notebook on a subsample of the more than 1,000 Alaska talks and posters (at the AGUFallMeeting)…


January 6, 2020

The physics of forty below

On the road, car headlights cut through the ice fog that hangs over the road like cotton candy. Exhaust, about 250 degrees in the tailpipe, cools to minus 40 in less than 10 seconds after it comes out of the vehicle. Water-cooled that fast turns into tiny particles that make up ice fog. Cars and trucks aren’t the only things that make ice fog. Any source of water vapor will do, including people and dogs.


December 30, 2019

Alaska blackfish in a world of its own

Just how tough is the blackfish? A rural legend is of a blackfish being chipped from a frozen mass of its brethren and fed to a sled dog. The fish thaws and revives in the dog’s stomach, where its wriggling causes the dog to vomit.


December 18, 2019

The demise of Scotch Cap lighthouse

The earthquake was giant, at least magnitude 8.1. The tsunami that resulted killed 159 people in Hawaii, drowned a swimmer in Santa Cruz, banged up fishing boats in Chile and wrecked a hut on Antarctica. The curve of the Aleutians protected much of Alaska, but the five men at Scotch Cap had no chance.


December 13, 2019

Redoubt’s big impact 30 years ago

On December 15, 1989, a pilot who had flown a 747 passenger jet all the way from Amsterdam was looking forward to landing in Anchorage. There, he would take a short break before continuing to Tokyo.


December 12, 2019

From Unalakleet to San Francisco

By Ned Rozell SAN FRANCISCO — “This picture is what we’re dreaming of today,” Mellisa Johnson said to reporters sitting in a packed press conference room at the Moscone Center, during the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Johnson was at a podium, pointing to a slide of western Alaska. It showed white sea ice coating the entire Bering Sea and hugging the coast of Alaska, from Wales all …


November 27, 2019

Plastic discs keep returning home

In August, UAF scientist Ben Jones was hiking near Drew Point on the northern coast of Alaska. He noticed pilot Jim Webster walking toward him, while flicking a little yellow Frisbee his way.
That yellow plastic disc, about 7 inches round, had a message stamped on it: If the finder returned it to the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, he or she would receive a $1 reward.


November 15, 2019

Dirty glaciers all over the world

Dirty glaciers are the most understudied kind, Truffer said. Scientists have not accounted for their quirky properties in models. Those numbers are important because so many people depend on glacial melt as their water supply, including millions in India, China and Bangladesh.


November 8, 2019

Which came first in Alaska: cabins or bats?

Jesika Reimer, a bat expert and consultant who lives in Anchorage, has in the past taken people up on those offers. Reimer has held in her hands little brown bats from the Northwest Territories to the Tanana River. Along with a few colleagues around Alaska, she is sharing new information about the farthest-north bat.