Alaska Science Forum

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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...
January 9, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
NEW ORLEANS — As a child, Deb Long spent many hours at the post office in Ester, Alaska. Her mother Ruth was the postmaster there. As an adult, she has settled into a funky little house that stands on brick legs in the Holy Cross section of New Orleans. She likes to listen to jazz while trimming her banana tree and working on a former wagon house she rents out as an airbnb.   After she...
January 9, 2018
By
Ned Rozell
NEW ORLEANS — At this gathering of thousands scientists at a horseshoe bend of the lower Mississippi River, a few talked about a place far away they have been watching for years.   “The Arctic shows no sign of returning to the reliably frozen state it was a decade ago,” said Jeremy Mathis, an oceanographer with the Pacific Marine Environmental Lab in Seattle.    He was one of...
December 7, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
Snow falling silently on Alaska’s mountains will in a few months transform into a medium for migrating salmon, and so much more.   “That snowflake that falls on the mountain now is water that flows in streams and rivers late in summer,” said Gabe Wolken, a glaciologist who works both for the state and the University of Alaska.   Wolken and his colleagues recently added a snow-depth...
November 30, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
“Professor Fuller Drops Dead in Garden.”   So reads the headline in the Farthest-North Collegian newspaper of June 1, 1935. In the story, an unnamed writer described how the the wife of the only physics professor at the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines screamed when she found Veryl Fuller face down in his garden. He was 39.   Fuller left behind his Fairbanks-born wife...
November 22, 2017
By
Ned Rozell
On Halloween 2017, Alaskan Steve Ebbert, 56, retired from his job as an invasive species biologist. His longtime mission of removing arctic foxes and other human-introduced species from the Aleutian Islands has left him with a legacy few of us will match.   “There are hundreds of thousands more birds flying around on the planet because of that work. That’s a pretty cool accomplishment,”...