Travel meltdown

2018-03-24 00.12.55

 Glacier busy with cyclists and skiers on March 24 of last year/Craig Medred photo

The March equinox arrived on Wednesday to end the Alaska winter just as the weather appeared to be doing its best to wreck the best of the Alaska spring.

Normally this would be the time of year cross-country skiers and fat-tired cyclists flock across the snowy flats at the east end of Turnagain Arm to get up close and personal with the Skookum and Spencer glaciers.

Not now.

The Wednesday temperature in the state’s largest city hit 42 degrees, some seven degrees above the normal high, according to the National Weather Service, and never dipped below 33 degrees, a whopping 13 degrees above the normal low.

As should be obvious from these temperatures, a normal spring in Alaska is not exactly like spring in the rest of the world, although it’s not quite as extreme as the late country music singer Johnny Horton made it sound in the 1959 hit single “Springtime in Alaska.”

“When it’s springtime in Alaska, ” Horton crooned, “it’s 40 below.” 

Such temperatures are rare even in the frozen heart of Alaska in March. They are not, however, unknown. Fairbanks set a record of 40-below zero on March 30, 1944 during an unusually chilly period in state history. 

The climate started warming up in the mid-1970s and has generally been getting more habitable ever since, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

Unusually warm

The trend has been especially noticeable in recent years. Four of the last five Marches have been above normal with 2015 nearly 8 degrees warmer than the historic average.

April has been even more out of sync. Seven of the last eight April’s have been warmer than normal. The trend line is in keeping with climate change and global warming theories.

For those who relish spring adventures in the Alaska wilds, the issue isn’t so much the overall temperature increase as the daily degree of variation between hot and cold.

Last year at this time, temperatures were getting up near 40 during the day, but dropping into the teens to lower 20s at night.

Those are perfect conditions for forming crust so firm moose can sometimes be seen walking atop the snow as if the wilderness had been paved in white asphalt. And for a few glorious hours every morning before the sun softens that snow, you can skate ski or pedal a fat-tired bike just about anywhere.

Anchorage Nordic skier Tim Kelly has a web page devoted to “crust skiing,” the early morning exploration of vast corners of wild Alaska by skating atop snow that has hardened overnight.

The page is heavy with photographs of Kelly and friends skiing over what would be in the summer lakes, swamps, marshes, boulder patches, alder thickets and other terrain seasonably unskiable and often a sweaty nightmare to fight through on foot in the warm-weather months.

Crust travel goes back to the earliest days of transportation with snowshoes and dogsleds in the north, but it underwent a boom when skate skiing burst onto the Nordic scene in the early 1980s.

By the end of the decade, skate skiing had exploded, and skate skiers were venturing everywhere there was crust in spring. It would be another decade before custom, Alaska bike builders began experimenting with fat-tired bikes and five-years after that until the first commercially produced fat bike became available.

But it didn’t take long for fat-tired cyclists to discover that a surface that would support skinny skis would likewise support fat tires, and they were off and rolling.

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’

Since then, early spring has become the best of times for thousands, if not tens of thousands of Alaska cyclists and Nordic skiers. Travel to the aforementioned Skookum and Spencer  glaciers up the Placer River valley only about 45 miles east of Anchorage has become especially popular.

“Crust skiing to Skookum Glacier is often the best  from mid-April to mid-May on clear mornings,” Kelly writes. “Skiing is usually best before noon, before the sun causes the snow surface to soften.”

Of course, that was then, and this is now, according to the National Weather Service:

  • Saturday Showers likely. Cloudy, with a high near 45. East wind around 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70 percent.
  • Saturday Night Rain. Low around 38. East wind 10 to 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80 percent.

And there is no real change in sight through at least next week with overnight lows forecast to remain above freezing or dip just barely below. Such temperatures are not conducive to creation of crust.

Still, there is hope.

“…Confidence is building that dry weather is in sight for Southcentral,” the Weather Service’s long-term forecast for next week promises. “Daytime conditions will trend even warmer than observed this week, though valley locations will likely see cold nights driven by clear skies.”

That could be good news for Alaska fat-bike tourists.

Yes, in the state where “winter tourism” has long been an elusive dream, there are some indications that the one piece of recreational equipment almost everyone knows how to use – the common bicycle – could spark a mini-boom in visitors.

So many fatbike riders were gathering along the Knik River Road southeast of Palmer this winter to jump off on rides to Knik Glacier that local residents began complaining about traffic and parking, and concerns were raised about the need for restroom facilities.

“I’ve biked in a few awesome places around the world and the thought that you can go out to a glacier and see ice formations is awesome,” Houston’s Steve Quach said as he last month prepared for a trip to that area. “I’m totally stoked and looking forward to it.”

Winter cycling, he said, “has grown so fast and with the advent of studded tires and fat tires” ever more terrain has become accessible.

If, of course, Mother Nature cooperates. She “still rules,” fat-tired cyclist Petr Ineman warned Thursday.

The recent co-winner of the 1,000-mile Iditarod Trial Invitational from Knik to Nome, Ineman had stopped in Anchorage on his way back home to Illinois. And after slightly more than 19 days on a fat bike on the Iditarod Trail, he was an expert on the many variations in snow that can make spring travel in Alaska pleasure or agony.

The ITI was hit with unseasonably warm weather as the race rolled onto the Yukon River and competitors spent hour after hour pushing their bikes through slush, Ineman said.

But almost as soon as they turned off the river at Kaltag, temperatures started falling, and they had a white sidewalk to ride for much of the 90 miles to Unalakleet on the Bering Sea coast.

It was the best of times on the heels of the worst of times in a land where a temperature swing of but a few degrees can make travel so much better or so much worse.

CORRECTION: The original version of this story reported the wrong year for the March 30 that Fairbanks hit 40-degrees-below zero.













46 replies »

  1. Craig, you’ve got a typo in Tim’s name in you write up about crust skiing. The correct spelling is of course Tim Kelley.

  2. Although “Geo Engineering” has been making headlines for years, anyone brave enough to bring up the topic is dismissed as crazy, leftist or both…
    “Schemes to tackle climate change could prove disastrous for billions of people, but might be required for the good of the planet, scientists say.
    That is the conclusion of a new set of studies into what’s become known as geo-engineering.
    This is the so far unproven science of intervening in the climate to bring down temperatures.
    These projects work by, for example, shading the Earth from the Sun or soaking up carbon dioxide.
    Ideas include aircraft spraying out sulphur particles at high altitude to mimic the cooling effect of volcanoes or using artificial “trees” to absorb CO2.
    Long regarded as the most bizarre of all solutions for global warming, ideas for geo-engineering have come in for more scrutiny in recent years as international efforts to limit carbon emissions have failed.”
    (BBC news)
    Harvard College has now dedicated a scientist David Keith to the media to answer all questions on “geo engineering”…
    David’s replies always include the words “may, might, could, can” as preludes to his denial that these practices are currently in place throughout the world.
    Next time you look up to the sky and see lingering “stratus type” clouds lingering for hours after a jet aircraft has passed on a sunny day, Ask yourself “Does it seem right that water vapor would linger for hours on a totally clear sunny day?”
    Geo Engineering is real and China is scheduled to be one of the world’s leaders along with the U.S. (Raytheon) and Russia…
    “China Geo-Engineering Corporation. China Geo-Engineering Corporation (abbreviated as CGC) is a Chinese construction company that ranks in the Engineering News Record annual compilation of construction firms as one of the 250 largest international contractors by sales, with international project revenue of $665.6 million in 2012.”

    • Steve, what exactly are we saving the planet from and when do we know when we are saved? What dollar figure because according to Democrats if we give them $100 trillion they will save us? After watching those lying Democrats and their phony Russian “collusion” and the money wasted, I wouldnt give them a dime.

      • Bryan,
        my point is that there are active discussions on “geo engineering” going on throughout the world…
        China has a Geo Engineering Corporation with $666 Million worth of revenue a year…
        What the hell are they doing to our atmosphere to make nearly $1 Billion a year off of Geo Engineering?
        Here is Harvard Professor David Keith answering questions on Geoengineering to a panel of scientists and reporters…
        David claims managing solar radiation with aerosol spraying techniques is a “fairly easy procedure”….
        He also sadly states: “And by the way, It’s not really a moral hazard, it’s just free riding on our grandkids”

    • Steve,

      I don’t think crazy is the sole domain of those on the left, I know a couple people who believe chemtrails are a conspiracy and they are on the right side of the political spectrum.

      As far as the vapor trails left by airplanes, you do know that commercial airliners fly at 30,000+ feet right? The temperature at 30,000 is typically pretty cold, if not well below freezing, vapor trails will hang in the atmosphere for a long time, since it’s 30,000+ feet in the air. Most of the time vapor trails will drift across the sky as they slowly fall, planes also tend to fly the same patterns day in and day out, hour after hour…so as you look away to cook a steak on the grill or tend to your garden a new set of vapor trails replace the old ones. All of this has no doubt been explained to you before.

      Claiming that chemtrails are currently altering the atmosphere undermines the very nature of climate change as espoused by those who believe in anthropogenic global warming…unless you believe “they” are warming the planet using chemtrails, but then that destroys the carbon based argument of the true believers.

      Check out the Freakenomics global warming and geoengineering chapter in their book from about a decade ago. If the globe was warming due to humans, we (humans) have the ability to cool it…or so we think. History is rife with examples of well meaning people doing things to better the environment that turned out worse for the environment.

      • Steve O,
        Many people believe that contrails should dissipate quicker (like the wake of a boat)…
        There is also an increase in seeing these “trails” over places like Arizona that are very dry and residents claim they have not seen so many “trails” lingering in the sky until the last 10 years or so?
        Either way, It is strange that a Harvard Professor is writing books on the subject “A Case For Climate Engineering” by David Keith…
        Keith also states that the technology has been around since president Johnson in the US and records show it was used in the Vietnam War…
        Keith also claims we are currently adding 50 Million Tons of Sulfuric Acid into the atmosphere through pollution…this then comes back down to us in rain…
        Maybe it is all that Sulfuric Acid in the sky that gives the hazy overcast appearance on sunny days?
        No one seems to speak of “Acid Rain” these days.
        Here is a short clip where Keith discusses the science of “Climate Engineering”.

      • Steve,

        Have you ever started your car or truck on a cold day and noticed the exhaust vapor? It’s the same effect but at 30,000+ feet, once you get to a certain temperature the relative humidity needed to cause icing pretty much flat lines. Add in the fact that pressure at 30,000 is much much less than at sea level and it doesn’t matter if you are 30,000 above arid Arizona or rainy Southeast Alaska.

        I also think it’s strange that a Harvard Professor is a chemtrailist. I see how geoengeneering could be used in the future, but until someone can give me a clear reason of how and why it might could maybe possibly be used now and for what purpose, for me it’s impossible to believe that vapor trails of combustion turbines at 30,000+ feet are being used currently for cooling or warming the planet. Especially because doing so would be completely in opposition to the anthropogenic global warming cause.

      • Steve, Steve, Steve…. there are highways in the skies using RNAV, GPS, and VOR’s. In other words airliners use the same “highways” at different altitudes daily. As for “chemtrails”, whelp, the water vapor contained in the jet exhaust condenses and freezes in tiny ice crystals giving up those pretty prism effects. Thus why it takes at times longer to break-up in -40+ temps. Really quite simple if you know anything about mechanics. Man, people will believe anything..

      • Steve, as for that Harvard “Professor”, well, he has an agenda and that agenda is to say “ah ha, chemtrails fuel Global Warming”, which of course is a lie but, it adds another revenue stream by taxing the hell out of the airlines and passengers, whom they know will be forced to pay these bogus taxes.. It all is a money generating scheme. Lucky for them the world is full of idiots.

      • Steve O…
        If you can step back from the “Chemtrail” aspect of Geo Engineering, you will see there are quite a few other “techniques” that are under considerations in these discussions that I linked to above.
        David is not alone in East Coast Academia and by the way his company that he runs and operates in based on “Co2 collection techniques”.
        The topic of Geo Engineering is not new…I was debating these topics back in the late 90’s and 2000 back in “Environmental Ethics” courses in New England.
        This topic is far greater than “Do you or do you not see chemtrails in the sky?”
        China is building an Ionosphere heater that makes our HAARP look like a toy.
        Russia and Norway have multiple Ionosphere heaters as well….
        This mad science is not going away and thinking geoengineering might be some conspiracy is a far way away from believing the truth.

  3. Bill and Steve, when you hear about that fraud “Climate Change or Global Warming”, think of this other FRAUD made up up tue same people. They all should be in jail. How about Craig? A true investigative story on Hillary, FBI, CIA, and the DNC and the phony “Trump is a Russian plant” bs? Lots of juicy stuff there. MAGA!!!

    • Wonder how many unhinged Dems committed suicide last night over the Mueller/Democrat made-up Russian fraud/lie? Guess that is one way to save the planet? Win-Win!! Years and millions of dollars of taxpayer funds wasted over that fraud Democrats knew was a lie. Criminal.

      • Bryan, are you part of the Trump spin on Mueller report??
        Sure sounds like it!

      • Bill the Trump “spin” started with Hillary, the FBI, Democrats in general, and the DNC, all the while being propagated by CNN and MSDNC. I am not part of that corrupt spin machine.

      • You are talking a different spin Bryan-I’m talking the Trump spin on Mueller report that has just been completed.

      • Bill, what does Trump have to spin? The whole Russian collusion was made-up, a lie byt those that make-up stuff, say it enough, and then believe it. Trump doesn’t need to spin anything. The Democrats do. Watch their heads explode now. They just knew they would get Trump on one of their lies. Personally, I am laughing my ass off.

      • What is it that you are laughing your ass off about, Bryan? Have you read Mueller’s report?
        For some reason you are spinning this as good news for Don Trump-again, are you part of Don Trump’s spinning of this? And do you think this report suggests there was no collusion? Show your work. Heheh!

      • Bryan, you say that as if Mueller is the only one who indicts here. And I would expect Faux news to be part of the Trump spin machine but why you?

  4. I’d like to personally thank Al Gore, Barbara Streisand and Barry Obama for their Huge Carbon Footprints! I believe they’ve brought us great weather!

  5. I used to train lead dogs that steered like a car. The best and most enjoyable training was when I spent stints in April at Ron Aldrich’s Montana Creek homestead. With three to four feet of snow covering about every obstacle, it was like we were traveling in a paved park, geeing and hawing the dogs wherever we wanted to go exploring. In fall before the daily mileage got too high, I’d make a practice of taking my dogs off trail an hour a day, every day. But it wasn’t nearly as fun as long, sunlit mornings in April whizzing over the fast spring crust. The dogs loved it. Better be home by 11 a.m., though!

  6. I’m praying for the temps to be in the 60’s and the trees to start budding. This is grrrrrrrreat!

    • i don’t think so. but i should have linked it, which i thought i did at the time but didn’t. i’m now hunting for the link. but, with that said, the record is even colder:

      -49 in March of 1956.

      it was easy to find the link for that:

      and you might note in that link that Fairbanks went to -32 in APRIL 1944. some might conclude Fairbanks is what hell would be if hell was cold.

      sorry. couldn’t help poking an old Fairbanks hand.

      • Craig,

        I’ve found that finding record temperatures for any location is becoming increasingly hard to do. I don’t know why this is, it would seem like a person could simply use any search engine to search a daily record high or low temperature for X location and get a result showing the record daily high and low for said location. To expect to be able to get the same information as an all time daily record is damned near impossible now, without spending some time doing so. Kind of strange. Intellicast had this information easily accessible but apparently merged with intellicast and now the information has disappeared. Kind of strange. A person would think that with all of the attention paid to our climate having daily records of the climate would be an important thing to know…apparently not. But it could very easily be that out of all of the various ways I’ve tried to find the data I’m not searching the correct way on numerous search engines. All I ask for is the daily high and low record temperatures for each location that records have been kept, surely if they can provide the average temperatures for every single day that has ever been recorded giving us the highest and lowest isn’t too much to ask.

      • Steve-O, this is a conspiracy to push you over the edge. Get back on your meds, pronto.

      • Must be a grand conspiracy huh Bill? One that requires I take medication? Stop your childish insults man, grow up and use your brain.

        I would welcome you sending a link to the record low and high temperature for everyday of the year for Fairbanks and Anchorage. Shouldn’t be too hard, it’s only 365 days…well 366 days during leap years, for two locations that they take and keep records for every day of the year. I was able to easily find this information a year or two ago, not so now. Maybe I forgot how the internet works, so please Bill, show me this information and prove yourself.

      • Steve-O, I suggest you go to the site where you observed this information before. If you’ve forgotten it then try google. The information exists clearly but may not be easily accessed as you are finding out. With the proper meds it may come to you.

      • Bill,

        Thanks for confirming what I just said. I went to the sites that I previously saw this data, it is not there, maybe you missed that when I said “Intellicast had this information easily accessible but apparently merged with intellicast and now the information has disappeared”

        I’m obviously not as smart and capable as you are Bill. Maybe you could just provide a link to the daily record highs of Fairbanks and Anchorage? It shouldn’t be hard for a person as intelligent and capable as yourself.

      • Steve-O, you may have to join “weather underground” but they do have ways to contact them with your specific question.
        The storage of certain raw data used to be expensive and you either had to store your own or pay someone to do it for you. That was 40 years ago and I’m as surprised as you it’s not readily available but, it is what it is. Since your original site has been absorbed by another group, the new group is where you should look IMO.

  7. Climate has changed for 4 billion years now. The last 100yrs did what again? How will we know when we finally saved the planet from ourselves? After we spend AOC’s $100 trillion on her “Green New Deal”? Maybe if we kill every cow and get rid of the Irod?

    As in the last 5 years –
    “But now, the right conditions have come together indicating the presence of an El Niño that will likely last through the end of winter and into spring.

    Alaska will see impacts in their weather in the coming months.

    While recent storms along the west coast of the Lower 48 and a warm, wet winter in Southcentral Alaska are typically signs of an El Niño, this season’s abnormality comes from somewhere else.

    The Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) is a lesser-known and faster moving climate pattern, typically making complete cycles in just 30 to 90 days. This has been responsible for the abundance of warmth and moisture across much of the 49th state so far this winter.

    As the MJO cycles, the warmth and moisture would typically depart Alaska, however, the presence of an El Niño keeps it in some of the long-range forecasts.

    The seasonal outlook issued by the CPC keeps temperatures above normal in Alaska through the end of winter and well into spring.”

    • Bryan, you’ve been calling it El Nino for some time now but are having to change your tune due to NOAA? That’s a good one.
      Who would of known it that: “Last winter, La Nina took effect in October 2017 and lasted through April 2018 before a return to neutral conditions.” And here you had been pushing that El Nino and your own link calls it BS.
      You might have to go back to breitbart and Faux News to keep your chit straight.

    • Bryan,
      Sounds like folks like you are slowly finding themselves “without a crutch” to support their “Anti Climate Change” rhetoric as U.S. Federal Judges move to push back on phony EIS to support more drilling throughout America.
      “In the first significant check on the Trump administration’s “energy-first” agenda, a US judge has temporarily halted hundreds of drilling projects for failing to take climate change into account.
      Drilling had been stalled on more than 300,000 acres of public land in Wyoming after it was ruled the Trump administration violated environmental laws by failing to consider greenhouse gas emissions. The federal judge has ordered the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages US public lands and issues leases to the energy industry, to redo its analysis.”

      • An activist judge proves nothing other than he is a liberal activist put there by liberals while towing the liberal line. Didnt we see enough of those activist judges with the whole illegal alien stuff?

    • Bill, I haven’t been calling it el Nino for the last 5 years. I am merely passing on what NOAA and NASA have said..Well, in this case what KTVA said. Just a messenger of reason my friend.

      • Bryan, while I didn’t say a thing about 5 years, you have repeatedly advised us all on here that Climate change is nothing but El Nino and particularly last year. Well NOAA has just stated that your last year El Nino posts were BS.
        Just a messenger of reason. Heheh!

      • Bill, from 2015 even…(NOAA)
        “All of Alaska is likely to be warmer than normal in the next three months, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center. Probabilities of unusual warmth edge up to 80 percent in the Gulf of Alaska coastal areas. The outlook extending into the next year also predicts warmer than normal temperatures for almost all of the state, with similar heat expected in the Pacific Northwest and the West Coast.”

      • Bryan,
        like Bill said…this whole LAST year you have been pushing the El Nino agenda (not 2015)…
        just like trying to label a federal judge an “activist” you are in constant denial of the world in which you live…
        your comments beg the age old question:
        “Is it better to know or not to know?
        You have obviously chosen denial.

      • Bill and Steve, I cannot get any clearer on my point.. Steve says “the rivers haven’t even froze yet, must be Global Warming”. I say nah, just the last 5yrs of warmer temps and warmer water temps from EL NINO….See, nothing to worry about..

    • The Dunning-Kruger effect is strong today. I don’t claim to be an expert or claim to know everything, but we all have the amassed wealth of knowledge at our fingertips on a daily basis, I just wish that some of us would stop making such fools of ourselves.

      Here is the record of la nina and el nino conditions:

      Some people believe anything they read in the paper or see on the evening news, some people question it. Judges do not decide what the climate does, and neither do you or I.

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