News Archive

April 26, 2018
Millions of Alaska birds nest on rocky emerald islands seen by few people other than ship captains. One of the funkiest of these creatures is the crested auklet, which looks like a bassist in a punk band and smells like a tangerine.   These hand-size birds have intrigued Hector Douglas for years. He just wrote a paper on how the smelliest crested auklets also have the largest crests —...
April 24, 2018
The University of Alaska Fairbanks has signed a new agreement with Sandia National Laboratories to conduct basic science, energy and security research in the Arctic. Under the agreement, UAF and Sandia’s efforts will include: Advocating for a comprehensive multiagency research facility that tackles overarching Arctic issues. Supporting efforts to improve Alaska’s resilience against...
April 12, 2018
KANUTI HOT SPRINGS — After a few hours of skiing through deep snow, Forest Wagner and I smelled a tuna sandwich. We knew we were closing in on warm pools of water.   From the frozen Kanuti River, we moved along an open stream up toward Kanuti Hot Springs, one of more than 100 hot springs in Alaska. Except for the extreme northwest portion of the state, hot springs exist from Attu in the...
March 29, 2018
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...
February 22, 2018
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
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 1, 2018
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
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...
February 15, 2018
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
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...