Saturday, November 12, 2011

Tropical Fairbanks

This grainy picture was taken at 10:40 this morning just northeast of Barrow, AK, located on the farthest north coast of Alaska. This is well before sunrise which is at 11:27. I was out for a walk around the NARL (Naval Arctic Research Lab) campus and tried to get a shot showing the open water. The village is still recovering from a blizzard earlier this week and it was still pretty windy. While I was out walking, it was about -10°F with a 35 knot wind. According to the National Weather Service this translates to -41°F (or °C) with wind chill and believe me you feel the wind. The official sunset today is at 2:54pm but the days are rapidly getting shorter. By this time next week sunset will only be 10 minutes after sunrise. This doesn't mean that it is dark since the path of the sun is so shallow near the horizon, dawn and dusk last for about an hour on each side.

I had asked one of the locals about the open water and was told that it used to be frozen solid by this time. At least near the shore. But he noticed that it was changing about ten years ago and now they can't count on shore fast ice until the middle of December. The open water is causing a lot more snow as they are now getting lake-effect snow, just like you hear about along the Great Lakes especially around upstate New York. After spending a couple of days up here, Fairbanks should feel almost tropical due to the lack of wind.
Doesn't this look a lot warmer?


  1. Brrrrrr! I won't complain about dark grey days again. You are only getting 10 minutes of sunlight? Holy moly! How do you not feel tired all the time? I just want to sleep when it's dark & cold. Brrrrrr!

  2. It would be very odd to have sunrise and sunset so close together, but like anything I am sure you get used to it. The cold on the other hand I couldn't get used too.

    I've visited family in Calgary and Edmonton when it was -36C and that was cold enough for me. No thanks not again. I am glad you get to go back to Fairbanks where it is a wee bit warmer.

    It sounds as though climate change is really messing with the ice up there.

  3. lol - no it doesn't look warmer! It's a beautiful scene though. Interesting the change and resulting effects in such a short time. Interesting and a little scary.

  4. Dar:
    Ten minutes of sunlight will be next week. After that it'll drop down to zero minutes of actually being able to see the sun above the horizon. Today, the sun is above the horizon for about 3 hours. After about November 18th, the next sunrise is on January 22.

    Yep, you can get used to anything including the cold. back when I lived in CA, it was dark when I went to work, light at lunchtime and dark when I went home. Not too different now though it is a bit cooler. Yes, the state of the sea ice really is changing. People can't seem to agree on why but few are challenging that things are changing.

    Hmmm, I though it looked warmer. I had to really play with the light temperature on the shot of the Arctic Ocean as it was really blue. The Fairbanks scene was using an iPhone HDR app. I like the way the clouds came out.

  5. I sit in front of my fireplace while I read your post and I am glad to do so, because it makes me shiver. Tropical would certainly be the last thing I would think of, however, the last picture makes for a nice atmosphere.

  6. I like the clouds in the second picture. I'm not sure what warmer looks like. Usually, it is how people are dressed that gives it away. No people running around in swimsuits in Fairbanks, so no doesn't look warmer. Interesting about the lake effect snow.

  7. SonjaM:
    Not too many fireplaces around here unless wood stove inserts count. I guess I should enjoy the balmy weather as they are predicting a couple of -40 days next week.

    No one running around in swimsuits in this picture. About 60 miles west of Fairbanks is a hot springs resort and it is more popular in the middle of the winter than at any other time of the year. The outdoor pools are especially nice when it is 40 below....

  8. Richard:

    What fabulous photos but I got a real shock with your sunrise and sunset times - something I'd never even thought about!

    I can see why you make the most of your summer!

  9. Geoff:
    It's just the opposite of summer these days. In the summer we get really long days and now they are fairly short. Actually, if you count "not dark" as day, then the days are still reasonable even in the dead of winter. Though many others disagree with me on that point....

  10. did you know we stayed at the University for I think it was a total of 4 nights. 2 before we rode up the Dalton and 2 when we got back.

  11. Soph9:
    No, but many riders do stay in University housing before/after going up the Dalton. It's a pretty good deal. I kind of wondering if they are still going to publicize it to the rider community now that Kevin retired and moved on to colder climates. I usually don't hear about individual riders trips unless I happen to walk by the dorms and someone is near their bike.

    Then I usually stop and talk...

  12. Richard,

    When people ignore science and climate change, this is what scares me. We just don't know what kind of effect this will have on the habitat. It's all pretty delicate.

    I do no envy your 11:30 sunrise. You are a man of iron to live in the dark. I can barely get out of bed when it's foggy here, and it's always foggy here these days.

    Thanks for the link you posted to my blog, that was interesting reading. I am interested in learning more about methane reformation now. It looks like a pretty useful technique - but what else does it produce?

    Behind Bars - motorcycles and Life

  13. Brady:
    Since the focus of their technology presentation was infrastructure, there wasn't a lot of disclosure about what else was produced in the exhaust besides liquid water. That was the main issue with using these devices as power sources in the polar regions. There were some questions about using them in areas where they were doing air sampling but their answer generally was that it needs more research.

    Today both sunrise and sunset has changed by about 45 minutes each from when I did the post and the day is now less than 2 hours long. Some people up here look forward to the last sunset since it just brings them closer to Spring activities. No one up here is arguing with climate change as they've seen a lot of change in a fraction of a lifetime.

  14. The wind always seems to bypass the layers. Stay warm in your ramblings. And I love the clouds in your tropical Fairbanks pic. :)

  15. Next July I hope I will be going that way. What is the temps around Deadhorse in the middle of July? How about Fairbanks?
    I looked in the map and there are no roads to Barrow, I assume you fly there. Someone told me there's a McDonalds, is that true?