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February 15, 2019

Jabbing sensors into the Denali Fault

“For some reason, when I come to this terrain, I know something’s been pulverized.” Cole Richards says this while watching three companions kick their steps Chilkoot-Pass style into an abrupt hill. The slope rises from the pancake floodplain of the Nenana River just behind him. The landscape here seems a bit confused.


February 6, 2019

Fuzzy memories of great Alaska cold snap

This week marks 30 years since I turned my pickup left onto a North Pole road and noticed the clutch pedal did not return to my foot. In a panic, I reached down with my mittened hand and pulled. The frozen plunger oozed back into position.
Driving at minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit is not a smart thing to do.


January 30, 2019

Invasion of redpolls sends seeds flying

Why, a friend asked, are there so many birch seeds on top of the snowpack in Fairbanks? A day later, the answer hit me in the head.


January 17, 2019

Alaska’s year without a summer

Two-hundred and thirty-six years ago, when General George Washington marched back into New York City as British troops were walking out, a volcano erupted in Iceland. For eight months of 1783, Laki volcano spewed lava and belched noxious fumes into the atmosphere.


January 14, 2019

American robins not heading north quite yet

Some of the 320 million robins on the continent spend their summers in the same areas they overwinter, but many head north to make more robins, perhaps for the ample insects and other foods available here in the warm season.


December 29, 2018

Life recycled on a wilderness gravel bar

How could a 300-pound animal disappear so fast? From evidence at the kill site, here’s what might have happened…


December 21, 2018

Listening to the heartbeat of Alaska

Across Alaska and a sliver of western Canada, 280 seismic stations silently do their jobs. Hidden in dark holes drilled into rock in boreal forest, northern tundra and mountaintops, the instruments wait patiently for the next tremor.


November 30, 2018

Fairbanks air earns unwanted ranking

Fairbanks’s air quality issues began in 1901, when shallow water grounded a Gold Rush entrepreneur.


November 16, 2018

Century-old blast still a mystery

In 1908, a colossal blast incinerated a swath of wilderness deep in Siberia, at about the same latitude as Anchorage. The explosion that July day registered on seismic recorders all over the world. Within minutes, 80 million trees lay flat and scorched in a circle 60 miles wide. Scientists calculated the shock was more than 1,000 times stronger than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.


November 2, 2018

The humidification of the Arctic

Uma Bhatt remembers summers in Fairbanks when she could open a package of crackers, leave it unsealed, and find them in a near-identical state a few weeks later. Those crackers now seem to lose their snap in just a few days.