Alaska Science Forum

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March 29, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
Overflow ice, also known as aufeis, is like a field of arctic daisies that comes back year after year. Aufeis that clogs northern valleys is born when frigid winter air meets cold water welling up to the ground’s surface. Aufeis dies when warm air finally melts it in July or August.   Fields of aufeis (“off-ice”), some covering entire valley bottoms 10 feet thick, can terrify people who...
March 22, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
I slept outside a few nights ago. Lying a platform of packed snow, my face looking upward from the sleeping bag, I squinted at the Big Dipper.   Within a few minutes, what appeared to be a moving star slanted across the dipper. Then another. And another. About 10 of them streaked through the Alaska flag in an hour.   Those unblinking, moving lights were manmade satellites, or...
March 9, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
One year before Alaska became part of America, 21-year old William Dall ascended the Yukon River on a sled, pulled by dogs. The man who left his name all over the state was in 1866 one of the first scientists to document the mysterious peninsula jutting toward Russia. He is probably the most thorough researcher to ever ponder this place.    On his first, three-year trip, Dall gathered...
March 9, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
Several times in the distant past, our home planet has been cleansed of its residents, with the exception of a few plucky survivors.   Perhaps the best known and most spectacular extinction was that of the dinosaurs, caused when a meteorite six miles in diameter crashed into Earth about 65 million years ago.   There was another event that killed most of the life in the world’s...
February 22, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
During the coldest days of the last ice age, the Bering Land Bridge was 1,000 miles wide, a belt buckle the size of Australia that connected North America and Asia. That mysterious land of green plants, streams and hills persisted for thousands of years, until seas swelling with glacial melt ate it up. All that remains are mountaintops that are now St. Lawrence and other islands, and the outline...
February 15, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
Space weather affects snowplow drivers carving through Thompson Pass in a whiteout, Iowa farmers dropping seeds of corn, and wedding planners who release white doves during the ceremony.   These and other customers subscribe to daily forecasts from the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado.   Rodney Viereck works there. He and his teammates monitor eruptions on...
February 8, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
In a packed university conference room, biologist Randy Brown spoke of chinook, the fatty king of far-north salmon.   “It’s more than just a fish, it’s a culture,” Brown said to the Fairbanks crowd, many of them Alaska Natives.   Brown is the lead author on a paper in which he documented all the known Yukon River chinook salmon spawning beds in the U.S. and Canada. The fish...
February 1, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
What’s this? Another aftershock?   That’s hundreds now, each more faint than the last.   Sorry, I guess I’ve moved on. I should pay more attention, given that you — a 7.9 deep in the seafloor not far from Kodiak — are the most powerful earthquake on the planet since one off Mexico last August.    It’s just that you’re so mysterious, hard to define. And you got buried in...
January 25, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
Two things happened on top of the world this week. In Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow), on January 22 the sun topped the horizon for the first time since mid-November.    The day before that, January 21, was the first time since Halloween the town’s thermometers recorded a below-normal daily average air temperature.   The returning daylight for the continent’s farthest north...
January 11, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
There are no photographs of bison spilling by the thousands across the Great Plains. By the time cameras came along, most of the bison were gone. John Wright of Fairbanks believes he has an Alaska version of what that photo might have been.   His image, 12 slide frames stitched together to show the Brooks Range rising from northern tundra, is papered on a wall of the University of Alaska...