2017 Lectures

The 2017 Science for Alaska Lecture Series will run on Tuesdays, January 31 through March 7, at 7p.m. 

The 2017 lectures will be held in a new location, the Raven Landing Center, 1222 Cowles Street, across from the Noel Wein Public Library. 


January 31 - The almost forgotten earthquake of the Alaska Gold Rush

Carl Tape, Associate Professor, UAF-GI

On August 27, 1904, seismic stations from around the globe recorded a magnitude 7.3 earthquake originating from central Alaska. The earthquake occurred near the peak of the Gold Rush along the Yukon and Tanana rivers, yet there were---until now---no known written accounts of shaking from the earthquake. I will present five newly discovered accounts of shaking from this earthquake, spanning from St. Michael in western Alaska to Fairbanks and from the Kenai peninsula to Coldfoot. I will discuss the implications of the 1904 earthquake for major faults and seismic hazards in central Alaska.

February 7- How do we adapt to Alaska's changing environment?

Anupma Prakash, Director, Alaska EPSCoR, UAF-GI

In this talk, I will present findings and lessons learned from Alaska EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research), which is concluding a five-year project to study the ways Alaskan communities can adapt to changes to the environment. EPSCoR researchers combine biological, physical and social science approaches to address research questions built on input from Alaska residents across the state. This includes studies into the impacts of oil development and permafrost thaw on a North Slope village; the methods that Juneau land managers and tourism businesses use to respond to glacial recession; and future scenarios of salmon abundance and use on the Kenai Peninsula. These regional research efforts contribute to larger EPSCoR efforts to quantify the difference between environmental change as measured by instruments and as experienced by humans.




February 14 - Volcanic gases: Messages from a volcano’s interior

Taryn Lopez, Research Assistant Professor, UAF-GI

Gases released from a volcano provide unique insights into a volcano’s interior and are critical for volcano monitoring. The amount of gas released from a volcano is related to the quantity of magma in the crust. The composition of the gases allows scientists to distinguish magmatic from hydrothermal gases and to estimate the depth of degassing magma. These clues into a volcano’s interior are key factors used to help forecast the timing and explosivity of impending eruptions. Alaska is home to 52 historically active volcanoes, over half of which are persistently degassing. This talk will explore the ways in which volcanic gases are used to monitor volcanoes and forecast eruptions, illustrate the challenges in collecting and interpreting these measurements, and provide examples of how these results have been used to understand the plumbing systems of Alaska’s volcanoes.




February 21 - How changes in permafrost will affect our lives

Vladimir Romanovsky, Professor, UAF-GI

The impact of climate warming on permafrost and the potential of climate feedbacks resulting from permafrost thawing have recently received a great deal of attention. Ground temperatures are a primary indicator of permafrost stability. Most of the permafrost observatories in the Northern Hemisphere show substantial warming of permafrost since circa 1980-1990. Permafrost is already thawing within the southern part of the permafrost domain. Projections of future changes in permafrost suggest that by the end of the 21st century, permafrost in the Northern Hemisphere may be actively thawing within a wide area. Various phenomena related to permafrost degradation are already commonly observed, including increased rates of coastal and river bank erosion, increased occurrences of retrogressive thaw slumps and active layer detachment slides, and drying of tundra lakes. The combination of thawing permafrost and erosion is damaging community infrastructure such as buildings, roads, airports, pipelines, water and sanitation facilities, and communication systems. In some severe instances, permafrost thaw and related coastal erosion are forcing the relocation of entire communities. Climate feedbacks from degrading permafrost are expected due to the release of organic carbon and transfer of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere. Disturbances of high latitude permafrost regions, such as wildfires and thermokarst, are assumed to be accelerating both in frequency and intensity with adverse but poorly quantified effects on permafrost. Also of concern are the potential impacts from damaged oil and gas pipelines as a direct impact from the degrading and thawing permafrost in the Arctic regions. To mitigate these possible impacts, an accurate and timely forecast of changes in permafrost should be established. Despite our accumulating knowledge of changing permafrost, future permafrost dynamics and its impacts remain poorly quantified on the local scales. To make progress, disciplines must team together to understand and to predict the patterns, processes, and consequences of permafrost thaw to the earth natural systems and to foresee their societal impacts.




February 28 - Exploring the limits of the solar system: NASA’s missions to Jupiter and Pluto

Peter Delamere, Professor, UAF-GI

Jupiter and Pluto are planets of extremes. Jupiter is the biggest gas giant planet and Pluto is the smallest icy dwarf planet. Even their namesakes span the limits of mythology from god of the sky (Jupiter/Jove) to ruler of the underworld (Pluto/Hades). NASA’s two most recent missions to the outer solar system are New Horizons (Jupiter/Pluto) and Juno (Jupiter). New Horizons flew by Jupiter nearly 10 years ago and flew past Pluto in the summer of 2015, returning fantastic images of this diminutive icy world. Juno went into a polar orbit around Jupiter just this past summer and is currently executing a series of 53-day orbits. Juno is measuring thermal emissions from Jupiter, giving scientists insight into its internal structure and providing the highest resolution images ever of the aurora. We will discuss some of the fascinating discoveries and the very latest results from these missions, ranging from Pluto’s ice mountains that are as big as the Alaska Range to Jupiter’s dynamic and multi-faceted aurorae.




March 7 - Glaciers: The biggest losers

Andy Aschwanden, Research Assistant Professor, UAF-GI

It took hundreds of thousands of years to build up the glaciers covering the Earth's poles, slowly turning snow accumulation into ice. With temperatures on the rise everywhere, glaciers in Alaska and around the world are responding to this warming by melting away. Here we will tell the tale of glaciers from their formation when the world was a colder place to their eventual demise if temperatures keep rising. We will learn why glaciers that end in the ocean are particularly vulnerable to higher ocean temperatures and why we care so much about the future of the West Antarctica Ice Sheet even though it is so far from Alaska.