Archive for the ‘climate change’ Tag

Sliding mass threatens pipeline, Dalton Highway – Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Local News   Leave a comment

MassSliding mass threatens pipeline, Dalton Highway – Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Local News.

This is essentially a glacier with rocks and dirt covering it and, please note, it is NOT retreating.

The two stories running at the same time is interesting.

Alaska’s Weird Weather   Leave a comment

I know most people envision Alaska as a vast icefield 12 months out of the year, but the fact is we do get summer and in the Interior, you can get a sunburn and even, if you’re not careful, heat stroke.

The winter of 2013 was the winter that refused to end. It was still snowing in May. By snowing, I mean we were still shoveling and there were ski races for May Day. We hiked into our cabin site mid-May in tank tops because it was 60-odd degrees, but we were hip deep in snow. The ground was still frozen 18 inches down on Memorial weekend. The winter of 2013 was the winter of that refused to end.

It was followed by the best summer Interior Alaska has seen since I attained voting age. So 30 years. Imagine 20+ hours of sunlight with daytime temperatures in the 80s. The evenings don’t cool off because the sun doesn’t go down. You can read a book on your deck at midnight without a lamp. Some years we get a few days of that around the solstice (June 21), but this year, we had weeks of it and the “shoulder season” continued with temperatures in the 70s and virtually no rain. The military set fire to a forest to celebrate, but that was pretty much the only weather damper we had all summer. It didn’t even rain during the Tanana Valley Fair. It ALWAYS rains during the fair! It’s such an inside joke that when friends call from out of state who used to live here and ask how is the weather, if we say “it’s fair weather” they know it’s pouring. But it didn’t rain this year at the fair — at all.

And now it appears that this winter is never going to start. A week ago, it was so warm that my johnny-jump-ups came back for a false spring. It was 57 degrees on Monday. In my lifetime, I’ve known four Halloweens without snow. This would be one of them — assuming the snow holds off for another 12 hours.

For the record, I like snow, but am not unhappy with it being three weeks late. Also for the record, although I accept cold weather as the price for living near a vast wilderness, I could live without minus 30 below — for the entire winter. We still go out and enjoy the great outdoors to minus 20.

I believe in global warming. I think the worldwide temperatures are or have been on the rise. I don’t think human beings are having any appreciable effect on it. The scientists at the Geophysical Institute here at University of Alaska Fairbanks say the sun was getting warmer for a while, but was in a solar minimum for several years. Mars is undergoing the same warming followed by a cooling trend that we’ve been experiencing. The Vikkings farmed in southern Greenland a thousand years ago, too. Ships sailed through the Northwest Passage for a couple of summers in the 1880s. The planet has warmed before … and cooled. Ain’t nothing new under the sun.

Alaskans would benefit from global warming because it would lengthen our growing season, allowing us to be food self-sufficient. Sure, it would also melt permafrost and cause roads to heave and crack and houses to settle. That’s not new. That’s been happening here for the 100+ years English-speakers have been here to keep record. It happened before we got here, there was just no one to record it. Just as our ancestors adapted to this harsh land with its weird weather and strange soils, my generation needs to adapt to this less harsh land with its still weird weather and perhaps warmer soils. And just about the time we adapt, things will change as the sun goes through another cycle and we’ll need to dust off our memories to deal with the returned former conditions.

Every generation of mankind wants to believe that we are somehow living in a unique age that requires us to wrestle control of the environment. This delusion is not new to us. Not long after the Vikkings farmed in southern Greenland, the priests of the Alps started making offerings to the glaciers in hopes of stopping their advance into what had been productive farmland. It didn’t work because human beings are ants compared to the global climate.

Mankind has delusions of grandeur when we suppose we can control the environment. We can’t. The global environment is enthrall to the solar system. Anything we puny little ants do is the equivalent of trying to steer an aircraft carrier with a teaspoon. Even if we could nudge global temperatures in one direction or another, we don’t know if what we do would have a beneficial or negative effect. That forest fire the military caused this summer was partially caused by 50 years of fire suppression that left our forests full of a lot of fuel that burns very hot and is very hard to put out.  More often than not, when we mess with nature, we mess it up.

We should accept our status in the solar system and spend our efforts on adapting to whatever the environment does instead of trying to steer the Titanic with a teaspoon.

Posted October 31, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Alaska, Climate change, Common sense

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A Glimpse of My World   Leave a comment

Two weeks ago, it was snowing while we were picking out maple trees to plant. Two days later, we broke 40 degrees for the first time in 2013. Last Saturday we turned the garden and discovered frozen ground just 18 inches deep. The next day it was 102 degrees on our front deck where the 80 degree sun bounces off the light-colored paint. This week it was 80 degrees or more every day. Today, it was nearly 100 on the deck before I got too busy to pay attention.

Last Saturday, our trees were still in ice nap — just starting to set buds. Today, the trees are in full leaf.

This was an unusual spring in Alaska. It was about three weeks late; it lasted two days and then it was summer. Alaskans are used to weird weather. That’s what comes of living in an extreme climate. Last year spring came three weeks early. Next year … who knows?

The reason I share this with you is that there are so many in the world who want us to believe that the sky is falling. Unless you live in Oklahoma or Kansas this summer, it probably isn’t. Weather happens. Relax. Adapt. Build a storm shelter if you live in tornado alley. Buy a wood stove and stock up on birch if you live in Alaska. The world has been turning on its axis for a very long, long time and our ancestors were no more in control of the weather than we are. Accept that and get on with your life.

I’m taking a nice glass of lemonade out to the deck where it will still be 75 and sunny at 10 pm. Midnight sun, don’t you know? In fact, the photo of the park above was taken about 8 pm on a June evening. The sun was in the west, right about where the sun would set if we were in Seattle. Instead, the sun was two hand-breadths above the horizon. At about 11:30 pm, on the summer solstice (June 20-22), the sun dips below the northern horizon for 2 1/2 hours a night. It doesn’t get dark. You can still play softball or hike at midnight. About about 2 am, the sun come back up. I call it “sun dip”. The Alaska Goldpanners play a double-header entirely without artificial light on solstice eve. I saw the great Bob Boone (back when he was an unknown) hit a grand slam once right at the stroke of midnight. Just look at that sky at midnight!

It’s Gotta Be a Record!   Leave a comment

Two weeks ago it snowed here in Fairbanks Alaska.  That’s a friend of mine on a ridge line. Last weekend it was so cold we wore our winter coats to pick up spring trees. This weekend — right now, at 6:00 pm — it is 102*F on my south-facing deck and 77*F in the back yard.

Alaska’s springs are usually short, but we ordinarily have a one-month “mud” season that we call spring. This year we literally had spring in about four days. We have friends who still have snow on the  ground around their houses. We dug our garden this weekend and decided to set some posts for a pea trellis. We had to stop because the ground was frozen about 18 inches down. Ordinarily by this time in May the ground is thawed to about least eight feet.

If this is not a record for the shortest spring in Fairbanks history, I am stumped as to which year that might have been. And that all makes me wonder — why do we humans, especially we American humans, have such arrogance that we cannot conceive of the world operating without our control.

We don’t control the weather. We adapt to it. Global warming, global cooling, ups, downs, whirlwinds — we really don’t know what’s going to happen next year. The weather man is wrong 60% of the time. So, can we stop acting like we have awesome cosmic power and just adapt to what comes our way.

Global Temperatures   Leave a comment

I found this interesting bit of news buried on Page 28 of a transportation research document.

Despite the media hyperbole, it is an open secret among scientists and engineers that the climate shifts are a normal cycle the earth goes through.

As research explores these issues, many questions remain. Decade-to-decade warming and cooling trends, for example, complicate the forecasting to address these issues. Despite rising temperatures, climate models predict that parts of the globe will experience both long- and short-term cooling trends. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) indicates that changes in Pacific and Atlantic Ocean currents will cause warming and cooling trends in Alaska on a 30-year cycle (4). The last change occurred in the mid-1970s, with high temperatures, and the next cycle in the PDO has begun a drop in temperatures. Some climatologists maintain that the upcoming PDO will be shorter but will lower the depth of the cooling trend beyond past cycles (4). Others predict a deeper and perhaps longer PDO, similar to the beginnings of the last ice age.

Permafrost Damaged Road near Yellowknife. Royalty Free Stock Photo

The real consensus is that the earth’s temperature shifts, in approximately 30-year cycles within a larger about 300-year cycle and that we should adapt to these shifts rather than panic of them. But panic provides the ruling class with an excuse to rule, so by all means, they must create a crisis.

Global Warming Observation   Leave a comment

More evidence for doubting global warming and wondering if there’s another reason for that sea ice meltdown besides temperature.

This is the view of Cook Inlet and downtown Anchorage on April 14, 2013

In the attached article, Ned Rozell, science writer with the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute recounts Alaska’s cooling trend of the last decade. Winters were getting warmer for two decades (my observation) and now they’re getting colder (Ned and I agree). Summers are colder than when I was a kid, but they’ve been holding steady for most of this century.

My point is that we don’t really know why this is happening, but there are people in our world who want us to take extreme action to control it – action that will certainly devastate our economy and devastate the budgets of most families – even though they don’t understand what is causing the phenomena. Moreover, they are unable to explain why, if global temperatures are increasing, temperatures across a wide swath of the northern hemisphere are decreasing.

A wiser solution would be to do what humans have always done – adapt to changing conditions. Stop panicking and trying to control forces greater than ourselves and adapt. And in a century or two, or next decade, when the temperature pendulum swings again, we adapt the other way. 

Global Warming Nerves   Leave a comment

The global-warming crowd is a little getting nervous. Why? Because this was a cold, long winter in many parts of the world and it’s hard to sell anthropomorphic

Here in Alaska, we bet on the date the Tanana River ice will go out. What can I tell you? Small isolated community with a lot of frozen rivers. In the early part of the 20th century, what else were we going to do with our time and the considerable amount of gold dust some of the miners had stashed? For as little as $2.50 for a single ticket, you can win in excess of $300,000, depending on how many tickets were sold. It’s not Powerball, but it’s our own little funky contest and in a state where gambling is not legal, it’s about the only time any of us get to place a bet without committing a misdemeanor. Technically, it is not a game of chance because there is science involved in figuring out when the ice goes out.

This is the latest the Tanana River has gone out in the history of the Ice Classic … one day later than in the very cold year of 1964 (the year my mom won a bar pool on the Classic). It was the coldest winter since 1971. April 2013 was the snowiest April on record. The trees haven’t budded yet, a good two weeks later than any year in my memory. The Denali Highway keeps drifting in with snow as soon as the road crews clear it.

I understand this is a trend. The northern states of the United States experienced a bitterly cold and late winter and Europe saw a similar pattern. On average, this March was 13 degrees colder than last year. On the other hand, the Arctic sea ice is definitely declining and is at the fifth lowest extent in recorded history, and Greenland has experienced dramatic melting as well. Paradoxically, Antarctica’s ice sheet reached its highest extent on record in 2012, but scientists say the ice there is changing. I would note that polar region research is still in its infancy, so the meaning of these observations has yet to be determined.

Which is my point. After 20 years of warming trend, Alaska has seen three winters in a row in line with historical weather trends – the cold I knew as a kid is back. Now, this summer is looking to be a chill one, which was NOT the pattern when I was a kid. We had warm, even hot summers, in Interior Alaska.

But, if you’ve made a career out of global warming, this spring will make you cranky. Professor of forest ecology Glenn Judy was there to shut down logging in Oregon to protect the spotted owl who were falling prey to a larger, more efficient owl species. Now he lives in Alaska to nag us about what he sees as our wanton ways. But, if the weather is returning to normal, what’s he going to do for a living? So, let’s insist that the Weather Service and commonsense Alaskans with decades of Alaskan experience are confused by calendar dates and that we really don’t know what we’re observing.

Another ruling-class elitist who wants to insist that he and his know more than the rest of us. We’re scientists; we’re experts. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Your observations are merely the confused ramblings of poorly educated people who mistakenly think you are able to think for yourselves. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! We will control all that you see and hear! The ice is melting, the temperatures are going up. You’re cold and it’s snowing in May? Here, put on a woolen burqa to protect you from the sun’s rays. You’re hot now, aren’t you? See, global warming! Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

Why I Doubt Global Warming   Leave a comment

Alaska Department of Public Safety Commissioner’s Office Extends Studded Tire Deadline

I’ve lived in Alaska for a half-century. The winters used to be much colder. Temperatures would drop to negative-50 degrees and stay for weeks. For much of the 80s and 90s, -50 was rare and it rarely sustained for more than a few days. The outlier on that was January and February of 1989 when the temperature dropped to negative-60 and stayed for three weeks. In the “aughts” the winters were often so mild it rained occasionally, which would have been unheard of when I was growing up.

But, in 1922, it rained in November and never got below -30 all winter and there are the Vikings farming in Greenland a thousand years ago that always made me wonder.

Summers were warm when I was a kid. June and July were hot. Sunburns and tans were not uncommon. The fall rains would usually start the last week of August, just before school started. Throughout most of the 1990s, summers in the Interior Alaska were cooler and wetter and the fall rains would descend in early-August. In keeping with the “the sky is falling because of global warming” a reporter for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner did an article in 2002 stating that all the tamarack trees were dying because it was too hot and dry for them. The problem with this was that in the same newspaper edition, the UAF forestry department noted that tamarack trees were an invasive species, brought across the Alaska Range by migrating Athabaskan Indians about 200 years ago and foresters weren’t at all surprised that they were dying of a blight. And, now, 11 years later, the tamarack are back, especially in areas where the black spruce forests burned in 2004-2006.

So, it’s April 30 and it’s still snowing. Normally, by this time, we’d have all brown lawns and maybe pockets of snow on the north side of buildings. The snow bank formed by my neighbor clearing his driveway all winter is 5 feet high STILL. I have NEVER seen winter hang on this long.

Why do I doubt global warming? Because I’m standing in the middle of winter when it ought to be spring. Last April, after a cold winter, I got a tan from sitting on my deck in my shirt shelves. This year, I’ve been shoveling that same deck every three days. It warms up to near normal temperatures and then it drops to sub-freezing and snows. I would note that this same pattern emerged in the 1930s. After several years of mild winters with little snow, there was a cold winter with a late spring and then a few years later, it got really really cold for several winters in a row.

Is this April snow storm freak weather or just a normal climate cycle that we so-intelligent humans don’t have enough historical perspective to evaluate? I vote with … we really aren’t as smart as we think we are.

The Law of Unintended Consequences   3 comments

Oh, yeah! Here’s a great idea!

Let’s reverse global warming by mimicking the effects of volcanoes.

I think it’s an interesting idea and certainly more sensible that the usual suggestion of just stop using fossil fuels and rely on renewables. Renewables are unreliable and low efficiency, hydro ruins rivers and salmon habitat, and the average American is inexplicably terrified of nuclear. Fossil fuels are here to stay for the long-term future because they work.

And seriously, there’s mounting evidence that global climate change is driven by a natural cycle of solar variation. It’s always seemed like hubris to think that humans could nudge that behemoth even a little bit and you can’t blame the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warming Period on fossil fuels. The article, from The Alaska Dispatch, brings that up – Alaskans wouldn’t object to a little global warming. It also acknowledges that there are a lot of costs associated with subsiding permafrost soils, rising sea levels (if they ever do rise; they really haven’t yet), and the comments mention the acidification of the oceans (which is more a prediction than a measurable effect at this point.

But, this … can anyone say “unintended consequences”? I remember the winter after Mt. Penatuba blew up – it snowed 12 feet in Interior Alaska. Snow doesn’t melt here, so that was 12 feet on the ground come April. We shoveled snow two or three days every week all winter long. Then we had no summer – it snowed in mid-May, rained all summer and then snowed again September 10 – a full month ahead of schedule. Seeding the clouds to stop/slow global warming seems a lot like the science that said “prevent forest fires at all costs” that led to a 100-year store of dead wood in our forests that resulted in several out-of-control forest fires in the last decade.

Sometimes we humans really need to pause and realize that we are not that bright and maybe we ought to just leave some things alone, learn to adapt, relax and stop acting like we’re God. We aren’t. We can’t control the sun, climate change is probably out of our control too. Stop panicking and trying to push the boulder up the hill. Adapt! In a couple of centuries or next year the climate will start to cool and then we can adapt the other way. It’s what we as a species do best, so let’s do it.

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