Alaska Science Forum

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June 23, 2016
By
Ned
A person might think that since we get our maximum sunlight on the summer solstice (on or about June 21), we should also get our peak warmth then. The sun’s calling the shots, right? Not entirely, said former Alaskan Martha Shulski, author of "The Climate of Alaska" and now climatologist for the state of Nebraska. “Alaska is warmest a few weeks after the solstice,” she said. A lag exists between...
June 17, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
Interior Alaska is a hungry place — lots of boreal forest and swampy wetlands with big, flat rivers winding through. Wildlife sightings, especially of big mammals, are rare. But a recent video posted by a seismologist makes the Tanana River flats look like the Serengeti. A motion-triggered game camera installed above buried instruments shows visits from coyotes, snowshoe hares, lynx, moose and...
June 13, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
While sitting in the front of a canoe on a twisty Alaska creek, my daughter asked to steer closer to the riverbank. She wanted to grab some suds. There, caught in the elbows of fallen trees, were quivering mounds of white foam. Foam is floating on most Alaska waterways this summer. Years ago, when I first saw yellowish suds on a creek that ran behind my cabin, I thought of something manmade and...
June 2, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
I once wrote about how fire had ravaged more than 10 percent of Interior Alaska during two smoky summers. A wildlife biologist called me out for choosing an inadequate verb. Tom Paragi chooses words that are more positive when he looks at a burned forest. Paragi works with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks. His specialty is the ecology of disturbances to the boreal forest, among...
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...