Alaska Science Forum

March 29, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
Stan Boutin has climbed more than 5,000 spruce trees in the last 30 years. He's fallen only once, and he has often returned to the forest floor knowing if a ball of twigs and moss contained newborn red squirrel pups. Over the years, those squirrels have taught Boutin and his colleagues many things, including their apparent ability to predict the future. Boutin, of the University of Alberta in...
March 29, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
People who study animal behavior think they may have found out why wolves hunt in packs — because ravens are such good scavengers. Scientists who watched wolves on Isle Royale in Lake Superior came up with the raven-wolf pack theory after puzzling over a question: Why do wolves hunt in large groups when a single wolf can take down a moose? To find a possible answer, John Vucetich and Rolf...
March 9, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
With dogs' breath fogging the 30-below zero air at their knees, 71 Iditarod mushers steamed their way down the frozen Chena River in Fairbanks on March 6. Upstream, just a few miles behind them, 500 ducks were surviving in a one-mile stretch of open water. You might think the mallards that did not migrate from the subarctic in fall would be skinny and weak, but a UAF graduate student found the...
March 3, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
In early March up on the frozen Arctic Coastal Plain, as the wind sculpts snow into drifts, it’s hard to tell northern lakes from surrounding tundra. But lurking deep beneath that flat white world are toothy predators as long as your arm. In pools 60 feet down, lake trout are somehow passing the long winter. A graduate student has sharpened the focus on a familiar species that lives as far south...
February 23, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
As another major rainstorm hit California in February, downtown San Francisco surpassed its normal rain total for an entire year. Reservoirs in the high country were spilling over. So ended a five-year drought in the state that some people attributed to human-caused climate change. Those pictures of dried-up California lakes bothered Syun-Ichi Akasofu, who recently gave a talk "The Forthcoming...
February 16, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
When they launch, the four rockets now pointed northward from Poker Flat Research Range will add to the 345 that have arced over northern Alaska during the past 48 years. Recently, Chuck Deehr remembered number one.   Deehr, 80, is a retired space physicist at the Geophysical Institute. He had just earned his doctorate in 1968 when he was among those enlisted to help with the first mission...
February 9, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
By the end of this century, Alaskans may be enjoying tropical evening breezes for about a week each year. That's an increase from the almost zero such nights we currently savor.   But it could happen, according to a graduate student who has tightened the grids of computer models to perhaps offer a more detailed glimpse of Alaska's future.   A tropical night is one with a low...
February 2, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
Last month, villagers in Savoonga landed a bowhead whale. Before 2017, in every January people can remember, sea ice surrounded St. Lawrence Island, locking it in for the winter. Boat-launching and whale-taking were not possible.   Now, the disc of ice chunks floating on the northern oceans is smaller than any recent year except 2010. The Bering Sea west of the Alaska mainland is wide open...
January 26, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
The second-largest earthquake on the planet in 1904 happened somewhere in Alaska. It could have been St. Michael, Rampart, Fairbanks, Coldfoot or a place called Sunrise on the Kenai Peninsula. People felt the magnitude 7.3 at each place.   If an earthquake happens today, within a few minutes Alaska Earthquake Center researchers post a map with its latitude/longitude (the epicenter) and the...
January 24, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
Hello old friend.   I thought you were dead. Sorry, but remember last year, when you didn't show up? It was the first recorded winter in Fairbanks when the thermometer at the airport didn't register minus 30 Fahrenheit. I didn't know what to think.   But here you are, a blob straight from the North Pole, squatting over middle Alaska. No records, but some impressive, dimly remembered...