Wednesday, May 29, 2013


We hit 80F/26C for the first time this year on Monday, not one week after the unseasonable cold that had snow falling.

The sudden shift from cold spring to extreme heat is causing ice jams and flooding all along the Yukon, most notably in Galena. The downriver ice jam has submerged the village to seven feet of water, and the village was evacuated. When that ice goes out, the downriver villages (Koyukuk, Nulatto, Kaltag, etc) will all be in danger next, as all of that backed up water and ice come downriver at once. Please keep your fingers crossed for them!

I finally (after three time-spaced bouts of digging) planted my rhubarb yesterday evening:

And I took a photo of our state bird for you:

Monday, May 27, 2013

Spring crashes into Summer

I don't think we had a spring this year. It was brrr... brrrr... brrrr... ACK! Pass the lemonade! I'm sticky and sweaty!

Anyway, here I have dutifully documented greenup in my 'hood for you:

I asked a friend if I could have a cutting from her rhubarb, so she instead took the liberty of buying me one as a gift so I could plant it sooner in the season. I tried to plant it today, but about 6 inches down, the ground is still frozen. I'll just have to dig a little deeper each day as the sun penetrates my fresh layer each day. It's quite fast, as the ground is dark and warms quickly, much like a behbehreindeer. :)

Miss Millie B. Doofus, Late Supreme Ruler of the People's Independent Republic of Bunnistan, declared, "The first thing allowed to grow in my kingdom in 2013 shall be a new rose bush, on my resting place."

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sumer is icumen in

Lhude sing cuccu!

Last weekend, a cold wind was blowing snow. This weekend, we have this:

And yet, still this:

Surreal, what?

So... after some soul-searching, during which my brain conquered my heart, I decided to have some of my trees cut. There are two reasons. Firstly, some of them are quite old and liable to blow onto my cabin. Secondly, the firefighters are always telling us to create "defensible space" around our homes. If a fire comes through the area, they won't attempt to save homes that they don't feel can be saved (i.e., homes surrounded by dense woods). I don't know if my few trees close to the house were enough to put me in danger of the latter, but I had long been concerned about the former. A few months ago, my neighbor T offered to cut and buck up the trees to stove lengths for me, if I'd let him have half the wood. That was an offer I could hardly refuse, especially since most of the problem trees are aspens, which make lousy firewood anyway. Sure, I gladly accepted. So he told me to flag the trees that I wanted out.

When I started doing this, I started to feel very sad. Those trees were quite old, and I had come to view them as friends. Sure, from T's lot, which is almost entirely cleared of trees, he has a gorgeous view of the hills and mountains to the South, but I like my woodsy view and my privacy. BUT--safety first! When I confessed that I felt emotional about three trees in particular, T said, "Well, think about how emotional you'll feel if you find one crashed through your roof." So I cringingly flagged those three as well.

He took the first few aspens down within the following twenty minutes. I was shocked--I had not expected him to start immediately!--and wondered whether I should have done some hippie farewell ritual first.

The next day, I came outside and found that the downed trees had posthumously budded. It just put a little twist in my heart:

My driveway will not be the same:

Nor will my favorite evening view. For some reason, I'd grown particularly fond of the spruce and the aspen in the left foreground. I could probably justify leaving the spruce (it's healthy and well-rooted), but figured that once all of its nearby friends were gone, it would look sad standing there all alone, so I flagged it, too.

Do I sound crazy? Or just properly Berkeleyish?

More trees that will go:

This one is the absolute most heartbreaking for me:

but another neighbor had commented that it in particular had to go, since it Was Not Safe. He had offered his services as well, but he has health issues that mean he should be resting, and he wouldn't accept payment of any kind, so I declined.

Farewell old friend! I'll always remember you for hosting my bird feeder!

Anyway, it'll make a nice new stump for splitting wood. My old one's getting tired:

Funny, that tree was even bigger and older when I had it felled in 2009, but I didn't feel sad at all. Maybe because it was already dead (it had died standing).

Summer is here, and fuzzy little plants are popping up!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Choice quotes from today's weather article

Minor News sez:

"The combination of a late breakup and early Memorial Day means limited outdoors opportunities for sun-starved Interior Alaska residents on what is forecast to be the first warm weekend after a prolonged winter or delayed spring, take your pick."

"Workers still were trying to thaw the well at the Granite Tors Campground at 39.5 Mile, and some camp sites are still covered in snow. State parks won’t start charging fees at campgrounds until the water is thawed..."

"There is no water available at the campground at Harding Lake south of Fairbanks, either, and some campsites still are buried in snow..."

"The campground at Quartz Lake will be open for the weekend, but the lake is frozen, he said. Harding and Birch lakes also are frozen..."

"'The warm temperatures could trigger flood warnings for rivers and creeks as a result of rapid snow melt', Fischer said... 'We’ll be keeping an eye on that.'"

Temperatures are forecasted to hit mid 70s F this weekend, which is really surreal considering that the trees are only just now budding, and that there is snow on the ground. Autumn and Linden aren't even shedding any more.

Two nights ago, I spotted my first mosquitoes. The huge, drunken, lazy ones come out first, and they are easy to kill. I call them "practice mosquitoes".

Supper the other night:

Why did something so nutritious and inexpensive feel like an indulgence?

Charcoal comes over to visit:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Day at Black Rapids

Black Rapids Lodge is located at the intersection of the Black Rapids Glacier and the Delta River valley:

Howling winds whip across the glacier's and river's valleys at 90 degrees to each other, making the lodge's location very turbulent. So my colleagues and I decided that that would be an interesting location to put up some wind assessment equipment, including a SODAR station. The owners of the Lodge were very supportive. They are off-grid and power the lodge with a diesel-fired generator, supplemented with solar panels. They are very interested in tapping power from the wind as well. In the past, Mike Hopper had attempted to install more than one wind turbine, but all of his turbines were damaged by the violent and turbulent wind.

I went down there with a professor/researcher of atmospheric science, who kindly offered to lend his equipment and expertise, and with one of our summer interns, who also is one of my now former students (and one of my brightest students, at that!). When I announced this trip, our PR people asked if the UAF photographer could come along as well. What could be better PR than (1) a collaboration with another department (2) in a gorgeous, scenic setting (3) with an undergraduate intern (4) and with a woman engineer? This post features some of his photos, which will be indicated.

Here are my photos, first, of things that are not PR-worthy.

The view from the deck. Not bad, eh?

By the way, the Lodge is just gorgeous. Mike and Annie Hopper really have an eye for beauty, function, and design. From the beautiful huge wooden beams to the stained glass, from the dichroic glass inlaid with the tile in their restroom, to the pristine condition of their generator, to even the beauty of their outbuildings, everything is just gorgeous, designed with an eye for detail that I've rarely seen.

The Delta River. It had only just "clicked" with me how the nearby town of Delta Junction got its name--it's at the junction of the Delta and Tanana rivers, duuuuhhh...

A lodge dog, Zoë. Zoë is a strange mix of shy and yet desperate to fetch. The entire day we were working outside, Zoë followed us around, pleading and cajoling with her stick, but she didn't want to be petted, nor have anyone approach her, except when she needed to avail herself of our opposable thumbs and throwing abilities.

Zoë's parents were *very* kind and helpful. I don't know where the Hoppers found this couple, but they sure got lucky! Here is Zoë with her dad:

Now here are the "working" photos from UAF photographer Todd Paris.

GPS vs. old-fashioned compass. The verdict: Both pretty danged good! The SODAR needed to be oriented to geographic north. At Black Rapids (and in Fairbanks!) our magnetic declination is about 20 degrees East.

The SODAR had to be located away from the building, so that the building would not interfere with the readings. So we shoveled a path and made a clearing:

Pretending to work during downtime so Todd can get photos. :)

We also set up a separate meteorological station nearby, to corroborate the local readings:

I think we need to submit some of these photos to Carhartt and have them pay us for advertising!

As the day wore on a lot longer than we had planned, and the equipment refused to cooperate, we found ourselves inadequately dressed and shivering against the cold. Zoë's mum kindly offered me her bunny boots and warm coat to wear. I changed to my warmer sweatshirt and pulled the hood over my head.

And the met tower is up and transmitting data! The SODAR--not so much. :(

Monday, May 20, 2013

Saturday, May 18, 2013


The upside of keeping the fire going--roasted peppers! Mmmmm!

The American Physical Society has a sense of humor:

Apparently, while I was sleeping, I missed being called upon by a bird and an ermine, who stood on my front step but got no response. Do I live in an Aesop fable or something?

Friday, May 17, 2013


I snapped this while walking outside with my coworkers at around 11 a.m. today:

Just think--in just over a month, it'll be "Summer"!


In the meantime, I have been banned from planned field work at Black Rapids Lodge, Anchorage is bracing for a snowstorm, the Denali highway won't open, and we here in Fairbanks are still shivering through this winter that will not end.

Oh well, no mosquitoes at least!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Notes from Here and There

1) I sent my top student a congratulations email for getting the highest score on the final exam, and he said that he was "stunned". The best are always the most modest, aren't they? I think we can quit worrying about the next generation if they are all like my students. :)

2) Minor News sez, "Wacky weather producing one of Alaska Interior’s craziest spring migrations on record"

Birds of all kinds are arriving in dizzying numbers and many long-time birders say they have never seen such a concentrated wave of migrating birds in the Tanana Valley... Bud Johnson in Tok estimates there were 100,000 sparrows descending on that area Tuesday. He reported seeing continuous flocks along the sides of the highway, and came home to hundreds of songbirds in his yard. White-crowned, golden-crowned, fox and tree sparrows mixed with juncos, rusty blackbirds and Lapland longspurs. Other viewers saw Lincoln’s and Savannah sparrows and gray-crowned rosy-finches...

“This is turning out to be the most spectacular spring migration I think the Tanana Valley has seen in recent memory,” Fairbanks birder Nancy DeWitt wrote in an email. “First, there were the unprecedented numbers of swans and white-fronted geese in the Delta barley fields (many of which are still there) accompanied by the biggest flocks of Canada geese and pintails I’ve ever seen, now followed by what Steve Dubois says is the largest concentration of sandhill cranes he’s seen in his 28 years there.

“Add in the numerous bluebird sightings (I’ve lost count), cloud after cloud of Lapland longspurs moving through the valley, thick groups of varied thrush at Fort Greely on Saturday night, and now the sparrow fall-out in Tok Bud describes, and I am just beside myself with glee,” she said. “I assume most of this is weather related, but what happened and where along the migration route that balled up all these birds? I suppose the fact that a lot of the valley is snow-covered and many ponds and lakes are still frozen is also concentrating birds, but would sure love to know if anyone tracked migration radar data over Canada in the past month.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Graduation shindigs

But before we get into that... brrrrrrr! is the first item to report! This morning, it was 20F/-7C! But... Now that most of the snow is gone, the mud has been pretty bad, so a morning below freezing is really nice for a run! Frozen mud is such a lovely surface to run/walk on!

So, in reverser chronological order, here are my commencement photos:

My adviser and me:

He was also accepting emeritus status.

This thing was ha-yooj. It took 3 hours to get through all of us, including graduates of the community college and technical school, who are also under the UAF umbrella:

You could tell that a lot of graduates were the first in their family to complete a college degree. It was lovely to see. :)

A rare photo Loyal Reader Number One--My Mudder. Happy Mudder's Day!

A friend sent me this photo somehow... a screenshot from the live cast, I suppose?

I found my friend, colleague, and co-graduate AB afterwards!

Here is a photo from the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program graduation banquet:

I am not an ANSEP student, but I was invited to participate in ANSEP graduation ceremonies since I have been a tutor of ANSEP students for four years. It was an honor to stand alongside my former students!

Of all of the graduation shindigs, I thought that the ANSEP banquet would be my warmest-fuzziest, but my coworkers threw AB and me a surprise graduation party!

AB and I both work different aspects of biomass, so our manager called a "biomass meeting" so we could all "touch base on how different biomass projects are going". Snnnneeeeaky! He set it for 11:30 a.m. in the ATCO trailer outside of our lab building. AB and I wondered why we couldn't just meet here, where we all sit within ten yards of each other. But he said he would be in a class that morning, and would only have very little time to meet, so could we please meet him closer to his class? Snnnnneeeeeaky! As the morning proceeded, coworkers started vanishing. Did AB and I notice? No, we did not notice. We stepped into the ATCO, and--surprise!

They had mounds of food, plus a huge cake, a pie, cupcakes, plus a bottle of champagne, gift cards, and graduation cards signed by all of them, for each of us! Awwwwwww... *sniff*

Party hearty in the middle of a Thursday!

We cut the cake together. For a lifetime of being co-graduates! *sniff* *sniffy* *sniffle*

And on Friday afternoon, I finally finished the cake!

I have rather a nice little collection of these now:

My collection is now complete, much to the relief of my Mdr! I'm going to get one of those... life thingies! :) And final grades are due to the registrar this wednesday, so I'll be done with my class by then too! (I'm halfway done with the final exam, so intend to finish calculating grades tomorrow.) After that, loyal readers, watch this space for photos of me fishing, hiking, backpacking, and sitting on the porch staring off into space! And combing out mounds of doggie hair! And sneaking around behind the proper hippies' backs and grinning evilly with my swiffer!