Thursday, February 11, 2010


It hasn't snowed in close to forever. This is hampering my research. Ah, well. I have a rather large folding table out in my backyard to collect snow that will have not be exposed to a thermal gradient (snow on the ground tends to have a thermal gradient since it insulates itself; therefore, on cold days, the bottom layer of the snow is warmer than the top, and on warm days, it is reversed). One of the more humorous members of my committee suggested setting up a second table, only covering this one with a checkered table cloth and setting out chairs. That way, he says, the Weather Gods will think I am planning a picnic, and will send snow out of spite. :)

Well, I'm going to ski down to the neighborhood beaver pond this weekend and see if I can find any interesting snow to collect. It's not as easy to find nice snow to collect as one would think--most places have either trees sprinkling tree byproducts onto the ground, or foot traffic. Ideal places are open meadows or ponds with no trees. I've collected snow on the Tanana, but when there hasn't been snow in so long, snow that's been sitting on ice over liquid water does funny, unpredictable things.


mdr said...

Oh, please be very very careful when trying to collect snows on ice river, please don't take any risk. PhD is not as important as being safe.

Arvay said...

Mudder, I understand that you are a worrier by nature, but I find this latest worry of yours surprising and difficult to understand.

Have you not been a loyal reader of this blog for the past three years? I've been skiing on the river pretty much every weekend, as well as many weekday mornings, for the past three Winters, and posted dozens of photographs. So I'm surprised that this suddenly worries you NOW.

But more pertinently, I'm not sure EXACTLY what it is you're worried about. Attacks by moose? Being run over by a snow machine or a musher with a dog team? Falling down? Please tell me! I'm dying to know, and then maybe I can reassure you! And frankly, I'm curious as well!

Rena said...

I had the same reaction as your mom - with your area having a strange winter so far, I had a vision of you falling through the ice while trying to collect samples. But then I remembered a few things- you and the entire town have been skiing on that river, and the ice is about as thick as a school bus.

I think your coworker has a good idea with that picnic table. I was going to suggest that you wash your car. But then of course, in your area that would result in a car frozen in a block of ice like a mosquito trapped in amber.

Arvay said...

OH! Falling through the ice! Good interpretation, Rena!

Mudder: The ice is still four feet thick, and has many snow machines (about 500 pounds) and dog teams on it all the time. So it's certainly safe for skiers!

b said...

Actually I also thought of falling through the ice! I think your comment about "doing funny things" naturally makes people think of falling through the ice!

Arvay said...

Oh no! "Doing funny things" means that the snow is forming weird crystal structures as it metamorphoses. The underlying ice is still the same as always, and in fact may well be THICKER this year, due to the lack of snow (which serves as insulation). The frozen Tanana is as solid as a road.

Debs said...

So it must be very frustrating in the summer when you want to go to the other side of the river, and you have to travel extra miles, just to find a bridge! (Or is it not actually possible to just cross anywhere you feel like it when it's frozen?)

Arvay said...

There are two rivers, the Chena and the Tanana. The Chena is bridged by proper bridges in enough places that it would save very little trouble to get off the road, cross the ice, and then get back on the road. The proper bridges are fastest, after all! The only ice bridge across the Chena that is of interest is between a neighborhood and a restaurant, so a lot of neighborhood folks use it, but I don't think it's very safe since it's downstream from the power plant. I've discussed this before, here:

As for the Tanana, there really is nothing on the other side; it's undeveloped. The only reason to be on the river at all is for hunting or recreation.

mdr said...

"Accident" happens when not or least expected, otherwise, it is not called an accident.

There are reports that people fall into icy river from various activities. I am sure those people did not foresee themselves falling into the icy river.

Please just be careful. Don't take even any chance. Your life and health are more important than PhD.

Anonymous said...

I bumped into a mother with two kids from Burrow (?) or somewhere closeby Fairbanks. She said her kids were born in Anchorage, because Anchorage has better medical facility than Fairbanks and she did not want to take any chance with the child birth.

Just be very careful in your daily life. Make sure your car is in good condition, Prepare your equipment before chopping woods or carrying water or anything labor intense. Be safe, mdr loves you so much