Alaska Science Forum

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April 8, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
A landslide last fall caused a giant wave of the type not seen in Alaska since the storied 1958 event in Lituya Bay. After a period of heavy rains, a mountainside near Tyndall Glacier collapsed into a fiord of Icy Bay on October 17, 2015. The displaced water generated a wave that sheared alders more than 500 feet up on a hillside across from the slide. To put that in perspective, the 2011 tsunami...
April 1, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
About 1,000 years ago, Norse explorer Leif Ericson bumped into the New World at Newfoundland. The old world was filling up, with 300,000 people living in the Roman capital of Constantinople. Up here in Alaska, the ancestors of today's coastal Natives were quietly having one of the more successful runs in human history. The Thule people of Alaska's west and north coasts lived a good life for...
March 25, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
Ships with no humans aboard have long ridden the seas, often floating with supernatural stories of being piloted by dead crew members or becoming visible to sailors and then vanishing. Alaska has its own ghost ship. Workers for the Hudson Bay Company abandoned the S.S. Baychimo just offshore of Wainwright 85 years ago. Sea ice trapped the 230-foot cargo steamship during an early winter in October...
March 21, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
For half the year, Alaska's big rivers provide a somewhat flat surface, allowing travel by snowmachine, dog team, ski, bike, snowshoe and foot. For a few weeks during their spring transition to liquid water, those useful ribbons of ice become a threat to river communities. Massive ice-jam floods happen every few years on Alaska rivers. Some of them are large enough to cause damage more than $80...
March 11, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
Last Friday, an email popped up in all the mailboxes of people with the Geophysical Institute: Someone saw what might have been a wolf on the trails north of the UAF campus. "Please be cautious if skiing in the area." A few people responded, saying they had seen one or two coyotes roaming the 1,000-plus acres of trails and frozen wetlands just north of campus buildings and roads. UAF ski trail...
March 4, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
For a town of its size (4,300 people), Barrow receives more visits by scientists than anyplace in America. The northernmost community in the U.S. has hosted researchers since Army Lieutenant P. Henry Ray built a polar observatory there in 1882. This different-than-anywhere-else place with fewer people than a one-stoplight town in Texas has attracted scientists from all over the globe. Why?...
February 26, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
In anticipation of an arctic science conference happening next month in Fairbanks, an editor asked me to write a column on climate change in the north. I told her climate stability would be the bigger story, since basswood trees used to grow in Fairbanks and redwoods once dropped their cones into the Porcupine River. Climate is always changing. But we have gotten much better at measuring those...
February 19, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
The upper Colville River is one of the quietest places on the planet, a land of cliffs and tundra and tangles of willow. Fashion Island is one of the most human-altered landscapes in America, where developers long ago replaced the native vegetation with a Cheesecake Factory and P.F. Chang's. A female peregrine falcon born in northern Alaska spent at least one of her winters on the 13th floor...
February 12, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
Recent research on the ice worm has shone some light on the tiny creature that appears when the sun sets on warmish glaciers. Few people have seen ice worms, but they are not mythical. Wispy and less than one inch long, ice worms live on glaciers, wriggling to the surface at night and sometimes lingering in meltwater pools during the day. They seem to be dormant during the winter. No one knows...
February 5, 2016
By
Ned Rozell
Stronger winds and thinner ice are forcing Alaska polar bears to work harder to remain in Alaska, according to scientists who have studied increased movements of both sea ice and bears. "There's an energetic cost to stay in Alaska," said David Douglas of the U.S. Geological Survey Science Center. He and others compared wanderings of polar bears from two periods and found the bears now need to...