Alaska Science Forum

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November 15, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
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...
November 1, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
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.   An atmospheric scientist at UAF, Bhatt gave a recent talk on a rainy October day in which she mentioned the humidification of the Arctic, a region often as dry as a...
October 25, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
While most of Alaska has not felt too wintery yet, 175,000 moose have noticed a change. As biologist Tom Seaton pointed out in last week’s column, moose are now seeking out what amounts to a large dog-food sack of twigs each day. There are no more pond greens to slurp or succulent leaves to strip from stems.   “In the winter, all that’s available is wood,” said ecologist Diane Wagner of...
October 18, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
The magnificent creature was fooled by vocal plumbing — similar to its own but much smaller — imitating the groan of a receptive female. The bull moose grunted twice, then strode through spruce trees at the far side of a river. Brushing branches away with its antlers, it emerged, expecting to see a cow moose.   I knelt and plugged my ears with my fingers. My friend raised his rifle and...
October 11, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
Stone spear points from Serpentine Hot Springs on the Seward Peninsula hint that ancient people may have migrated northward between ice sheets from warmer parts of America, bringing their technology with them.   Heather Smith, an anthropologist at Eastern New Mexico University, wrote a recent paper based on spear-point fragments she and others found near Serpentine Hot Springs during the...
October 4, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
A friend and I just camped out at the Arctic Circle, about 200 miles north of where we live in Fairbanks.   A dashed line on the map went right through our campsite. That line, the Arctic Circle, traces the northern hairline of the globe, at about 66 degrees north latitude. That means that when sleeping on the circle we were much closer to the North Pole (at 90 degrees latitude and 1,600...
September 27, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
On a November morning long ago, Jeff and Annette Freymueller were feeling the effects of the 1 a.m. flight that had carried them home, to end-of-the-line Fairbanks. There was no rush to get up on that Saturday 16 years ago. They slept in.   As the sky brightened, over sips of coffee the Freymuellers pondered the last few days they had spent in Southern California, where they both grew up....
September 13, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
DENALI NATIONAL PARK — When I was 12 years old, I didn’t know permafrost was like frozen lasagna. I didn’t know what permafrost was. I grew up in a small town on the Hudson River in New York.   But here is my 12-year-old daughter and her classmates, gathered amid fragrant tundra plants. She is sitting on the T-end of a pointed steel rod, in order to help shove it in the ground. She stops...
September 5, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
Leaving cloven hoofprints from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, more than 3,500 muskoxen live in Alaska. All of those shaggy, curly-horned beasts came from one group of muskoxen that survived a most remarkable journey in the 1930s.   In 1900, no muskoxen existed in Alaska. Though the stocky, weatherproof creatures have survived in the Arctic since the last...
August 30, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
Maybe she has the right idea, the arctic ground squirrel. Sniffing the chilly air, looking up to see the first stars of the season, she has decided to check out. A few weeks shy of fall equinox, the squirrel is now bunkered up for winter, three feet beneath the tundra of the North Slope.   “There’s tons of food, there’s tons of light, so why are they hibernating?” said Cory Williams of the...