Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Still Dark and Dreary

I think this was a not too subtle reminder that I still live in Alaska. Needless to say, I didn't ride to work that day (Monday) though I did consider riding in to take a picture by the temperature sign. But the weather has been rapidly improving and I rode in to town last night for a meeting. Actually, the meeting was only ½ a mile away but that meant I had to go at least 10 to sort of warm up the engine. I don't think an air cooled engine cares for these really cold temperatures. I can smell a lot of partially burned fuel in the exhaust. And after 10 miles at -18°F, the heads were warm but still cool enough to put your bare hands on. This morning, it has warmed up considerably so it was a relatively pleasant ride in.

Monday Morning Fog
With the cold weather on Monday, we had a temperature inversion and the resulting ice fog. Ice fog is a particularly unhealthy version where water freezes around particles of ash or soot mostly from burning solid fuel (wood or coal). Once you breath in the fog, the particles are trapped. There is a lot of push to limit burning wood and coal but there is a lot of resistance to new government regs around here. Plus, almost all of our electricity is from coal power plants. On strong inversion days, you can see the exhaust from the power plants, wood stoves and boilers heading down to the ground instead of rising up as you would expect.

Wednesday Dawn
There was a little bit of color on the horizon this morning on my way back from the cafe across the street. It's still almost two hours before sunrise but you may get an idea how long our dawn and dusks are due to the shallow angle the sun takes. These days sunrise and sunset both occur in the southern sky.

Another shot of the southern horizon showing the actual sunrise Officially, it's at 10:55am but here it is ten minutes later. But at least we still have sunrise. Barrow's next sunrise isn't until around January 20th.

22 comments:

Unknown said...

Richard:

this year you seem to be getting quite a few of these temperature inversions. Even we got one here about a month ago but rare for us as we generally get winds off the ocean

Good news. The winter solstice is just next week so your days should be getting longer.

other than that, your temps are too cold for us chickens down here

bob
Riding the Wet Coast

RichardM said...

We get temperature inversions just about anytime it's really cold like -40° and no wind. The wind does a pretty good job of keeping the air mixed.

Yep, only 3 more days before the days start getting longer again. Is Spring right around the corner?

If you put a sidecar on your Wee-Strom, you too could be riding all winter and get rid of your commuter car. Just think of all of the potential savings!

Erik R said...

Burrrr, I'll keep the -teens and 20's. You can have the -40 stuff.

RichardM said...

But we just want to share the joy of the winter season with in the lower-48. Plus, if it's cold there, it's warm here...

Unknown said...

Richard:

You forgot to mention that there was already a Suzuki Hack ready to go somewhere in Aurora, CO and it is FOR SALE. what a co-incidence

bob
Riding the Wet Coast

RichardM said...

Funny that you mention that since I did type that in but deleted it since I didn't know if the subframe from the Vee would fit the Wee.

Martha said...

What would be the perfect heating solution there?

RichardM said...

Anchorage and parts of the Kenai have natural gas and it costs a small fraction of oil heat. Wood and coal produce more soot and ash but is an economical option. Most people heat with oil. There is now a pellet operation down the road and some have went that route but it, like oil, need electricity. Wood and coal don't.

So I don't know what the "best" solution is. Maybe natural gas if they can ever get the infrastructure installed.

David Masse said...

Richard, way back when we had a week in Montreal with -40C weather. It's not something I'll soon forget. -40C is the same as -40F, it's where the scales converge.

It was so cold that the oil-damped volume control on the radio in my Datsun 1200 wouldn't budge. Stepping on the clutch to shift gears was like the transmission was full of congealed molasses. By the time you got the clutch disengaged, you had to down shift instead of up shifting you had lost so much speed.

I'll bet you've got some dumb southern dogs visiting there that are frozen onto the hydrants.

Take good care.

RichardM said...

I think we have a couple of those dogs in this house. What we're missing are the fire hydrants. When fire trucks go out, water trucks accompany them to supply the pump trucks with water.

The difference may be that here, -40 is expected and not unusual.

redlegsrides said...

Those temperature inversion layers sound nasty.

With the colder temperatures, there is more oxygen in the air I am told, so one''s carbs have to be adjusted to provide more fuel. That's why I was surprised to rear you're smelling unburned fuel while riding.

You didn't forget to disable the choke did you? :)

redlegsrides said...

read, not rear....

Keith - Circle Blue said...

Reading your blog is one of the reasons I refuse to say I ride when it's "really" cold. My coldest rides are merely "brisk".

Also, I'm not running the right oil for cold like you have. You're spot on about expectations.

Steve Williams said...

I'm with Keith -- my rides aren't cold at all compared to yours Richard. The coldest I've ever ridden in is -15F -- a far cry from your situation.

As far as the inversion goes and the particulates from coal and wood -- I'm all about restricting that poison on many levels not the least of which is that it stinks. On mornings here when people are firing up their wood fires I can't believe the stench. If I fired up a cigarette in their house they would lose their minds but they seem to be comfortable pouring out much worse.

I grew up in Pittsburgh before the smoke control laws were passed and the industrial atmosphere was oppressive. On bright sunny days it would get dark at times from passing smoke from a blast furnace or other industrial operation.

Over the mountain is a bucolic Amish community. There place looks like Pittsburgh in the early 1960s at times because they burn so much wood...

Keep warm!

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

Martha said...

I can't tell you how many people had no idea that pellet stoves need electricity. When they tell me that they bought one for power outages...

It's very difficult to get people who live in the woods to stop burning wood for heat- obviously. I'm back in an area where there is a natural gas supply and I rarely smell smoke. I miss that, but in a city, in small neighborhoods that would be unbearable if everyone burned wood!

Trobairitz said...

Nope, don't miss those temperatures at all. Good thing you are hearty. I bet the wood stove feels particularly nice on those days.

RichardM said...

The enricheners were off but not verified off. Too dark to see and I didn't think of just reaching down and checking for slack cable.

Usually, I can turn them off within about 30 seconds even when really cold.

RichardM said...

I don't know about that. I have a huge "barn door" of a fairing and windshield so I barely even feel any wind. Generally, once it gets cold, it stays there and the roads become pretty clear of ice. This year, there is a broken layer which is a real pain.

RichardM said...

I'm not that much different. My coldest ride so far is -18°F and I'm not sure I want to try it any colder unless the ride begins and ends inside of the garage. Maybe once just for the photo op...

The smoke laws get shot down all the time around here since many don't want the government messing around with their "right" to pollute... Or something like that. During the cold spells with the ice fog, it's almost painful to walk around the downtown area due to the ice fog. Shortness of breath and coughing are the norm.

RichardM said...

Really? You can pretend that you're camping within your home. The newer wood stove designs are getting pretty good as long as it's kept hot enough for the catalyst to work. Pellet stoves are picking up in popularity but some don't like the noise from the auger and the fan. They prefer just the crackle of the wood in the stove.

We currently have neither. Our boiler will burn solid fuel but I have never used that feature.

Conchscooter said...

I had to wear my vest riding home Thursday morning. At least the cool air wasn't choking me. do the anti government nutters cash their permanent fund checks?

RichardM said...

Of course! That's part of their entitlement. The government owes them at least that for putting up with the state...

Had to wear the vest, eh? That means that winter is here!