Alaska Science Forum

To subscribe to these weekly science stories, email ned.rozell@alaska.edu.

April 13, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
Fairbanks's air turns bitter every winter as we fill it with woodsmoke and other things, but just down the road Denali National Park has the clearest air measured among America's monitored national parks.   Scientists at Colorado State University have taken a close look at Denali air as captured near the park entrance. A monitor there pulls air through a set of four filters, getting samples every...
April 13, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
On a February day long ago, a family living in a sod hut near the Arctic Ocean saw blocks of sea ice bulldozing their way onto shore. Winds shoved more ice until the mass towered above them and started dripping water through a ventilation hole. The father urged his family outside just before a slab fell on the hut and crushed him. An ivu — the Inupiat word for mounds of ice that sometimes plow...
April 13, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
Satellite data has confirmed that the amount of freshwater released into the Gulf of Alaska from streams and rivers in Alaska and northern Canada is about 1.5 times what the Mississippi River dumps into the Gulf of Mexico each year. That astounding flow of water is from rainfalls that soak Southeast Alaska and the south side of the Alaska Range. The other half comes from the melting of snow and...
April 13, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
Like flecks of pepper on chowder, all of the spectacled eiders on the planet are now gathered amid sea ice and steaming open leads in the Bering Sea. "It's a mass of life in this desolate area," said Matt Sexson, who once rode an icebreaker to see the winter gathering south of St. Lawrence Island. Sexson, a biologist with the USGS Science Center in Anchorage, just handed in a...
April 13, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
North America's highest mountain should be a volcano. Denali sits about 60 miles above where the Pacific Plate grinds beneath the North American plate, as do Iliamna, Redoubt and Augustine. If you draw a line from the Aleutians to volcanic features in interior Alaska, the curve goes over Denali's summit. Like its neighbors in the Alaska Range, the big mountain shows no signs of having...
April 13, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
Augustine Volcano sits alone, a 4,000-foot pyramid on its own island in Cook Inlet. Like many volcanoes, it has a tendency to become top heavy. When gravity acts on Augustine's oversteepened dome, rockslides spill into the ocean. A scientist recently found new evidence for an Augustine-generated tsunami from a time when Egyptian pharaohs built their own pyramids. Zebulon Maharrey's...
April 13, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
A scientist once noticed a connection between the stress that tides inflict on the planet and the number of small earthquakes that happen in some areas when that pressure is greatest. She saw a pattern to these earthquakes leading up to great tsunamis. A graduate student is now looking for a similar signal in Alaska. Yen Joe Tan of Columbia University is combing through a database of offshore...
April 13, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
In spring of 1946, five men stationed at the Scotch Cap lighthouse had reasons to be happy. World War II was over. They had survived. Their lonely Coast Guard assignment on Unimak Island would be over in a few months. But the lighthouse tenders would never return to their homes in the Lower 48. In the early morning of April 1, the earth ruptured deep within the Aleutian Trench 90 miles south. An...
April 13, 2015
By
Ned Rozell
As pungent eucalyptus trees soaked up inches of California rain, a few researchers inside San Francisco’s Moscone Center spoke of the treeless third of Alaska at the 2014 fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union. The annual gathering of Earth and space scientists attracted more than 20,000 of them to San Francisco in late December. Alaska’s tundra landscapes carpet a good portion of the...
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...