Alaska Science Forum

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April 13, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
On April 1, 1946, the sea floor ruptured just south of Unimak Island in the Aleutian Islands. Seawater displaced by the giant earthquake sent a 100-foot wave into the Scotch Cape lighthouse on Unimak, destroying the concrete structure and killing the five men inside. They never knew what hit them in the 2 a.m. darkness. The residents of Hilo, on Hawaii’s big island, were also unaware of the...
April 13, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
Following a press conference at the enormous fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, an unusual sound was heard in a room of reporters: Applause. Writers and videographers representing news agencies from around the world clapped at the conclusion of a presentation by four scientists involved with the NASA mission to Mars, now in its second year. After a year of cautious...
April 13, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
SAN FRANCISCO -- At this annual gathering of more than 20,000 Earth and space scientists, press conferences offered by the organizers feature scientists discussing everything from Mars rovers whiffing methane to Christmas lights visible from space. One press conference that has for a few years had a recurring slot at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union is the state of changes in...
April 13, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
A long, long time ago, a hairy elephant stomped the northland, wrecking trees and shrubs as it swallowed twigs, leaves and bark. These mastodons left a few scattered teeth and bones in Alaska and the Yukon, reminders of an immense mammal that lived as far south as Honduras. A recent look at far-north mastodons shows the creatures vanished from the Arctic thousands of years earlier than...
April 13, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
Imagine a shallow lake north of Hughes, in the cold heart of Alaska. In frigid, sluggish water, dim blue light penetrates two feet of ice. The ice has a quarter-size hole, maintained by a stream of methane bubbles. Every few minutes, a brutish little fish swims up, sips air, and peels back to the dank. The Alaska blackfish is an evolutionary loner that fins through lakes and tundra ponds across...
April 13, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
The revival of the virus responsible for the 1918 Spanish flu, the killer of millions of people, was the end of a long journey for Johan Hultin. Hultin, 90, twice retrieved samples of the virus from the lungs of flu victims preserved by permafrost in an Alaska village. Molecular pathologists used the latter of those samples to reconstruct the virus and discover that it jumped from birds to humans...
April 13, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
"Rectal Temperature of the Working Sled Dog." "Cleaning and Sterilization of Bunny Boots." "Comparative Sweat Rates of Eskimos and Caucasians Under Controlled Conditions." These are some of the studies completed by scientists who worked for the Arctic Aeromedical Laboratory from the late 1940s to the 1960s. Developed during the Cold War to "solve the severe...
April 13, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
It is a very remarkable fact that a region under a civilized government for more than a century should remain so completely unknown as the vast territory drained by the Copper, Tanana and Koyukuk Rivers. So wrote Henry Allen in a government report on his muscle-powered journey from the mouth of the Copper River to the mouth of the Yukon, from where he returned by steamship to the civilized 48....
April 13, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
Last week, I wrote about a thought experiment proposed by Fairbanks scientist Jim Beget. He suggests raining down crystals of a compound that captures carbon dioxide onto a frigid plateau in Antarctica. There, the greenhouse gas might remain locked for a few hundred thousand years. Beget will present his idea at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union this December in San Francisco....
April 13, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
Jim Beget spends much of his time digging for clues from long ago, like when a volcanic island might have collapsed into the sea, sending giant waves to distant shores. He will soon engage in debate on a contemporary question: before carbon dioxide makes the world unlivable, what can we do about it? In December, the UAF geologist/volcanologist will tack a poster in a San Francisco meeting hall...