What I learned this Earth Day, 2014

Posted 23 April 2014 by Liz O'Connell

Painted box turtle / Image by Laura Nielsen

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists – In the summer I drive to my favorite of many nearby glacial lakes, a deep down-turned gumdrop of cool water ringed in lillypads. I catch painted box turtles. After a frenetic chase and what feels like too long without air I surface gasping, and marveling at each turtle’s personality. They might battle hissing and clawing at air, or hide a bit before emerging to inspect me… or their own reflections in my goggles. Some... Read more

Predicting the effect of anomalous sea ice loss and increasing sea surface temperatures on global storm systems

Posted 16 April 2014 by Liz O'Connell

Soumik Basu

Azara Mohammadi – To become a PhD candidate at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Soumik Basu moved from his home in Kolkata, India to a region infamous for its “below zero” weather: Interior Alaska. Basu left warm weather and his family (not to mention his mother’s cooking) because “The climate is changing, so I wanted to study how these changes in the climate affect the storm activities over the Northern Hemisphere.” Specifically, Basu came to UAF to understand variability and... Read more

The ground changing under our feet – Thermokarsts

Posted 8 April 2014 by Liz O'Connell

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists – Jason Dobkowski stands on the shores of Wolverine Lake. His research site is located in the North Slope of Alaska, nestled near the remote foothills of the Brooks Range. "I’m here studying permafrost thaw slump which is depositing silt and material into the lake behind me. And that material, the silt and the minerals and the frozen carbon, affects the lake in a lot of different ways. It can change the chemistry and the... Read more

Snowy Owl Irruption

Posted 2 April 2014 by Liz O'Connell

Snowy Owl in flight / Image by David Hemmings, NaturesPhotoAdventures, Quebec, Ontario (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists – This winter snowy owls were on the move; unusually large numbers of the magnificent birds made their way to the Lower 48 United States. With a wing span greater than four feet and distinctive plumage, snowy owls are a glorious sight. The birds' winter migrations normally take them to Canada's southern provinces. Some birds come all the way to the northern U.S. – especially near the coasts. Yet this year snowy owls winged their... Read more

Tram Powered International Tundra Experiment

Posted 26 March 2014 by Liz O'Connell


Liz O'Connell for Frontier Scientists – Multiple instruments, configured along a tram-like platform, sense the tundra below and gather detailed data while traveling along a 50 meter transect.  “We are gathering measurements that we don’t know exactly how they will be used,” said Steven Oberbauer, professor of biological sciences at Florida International University. The high resolution information is more detailed than that gained by a satellite or by a meteorological station that is situated in one spot. In the video... Read more

Modeling shifting oceanscapes; a collective pursuit

Posted 19 March 2014 by Liz O'Connell

Dr. Thomas Weingartner, Professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Institute of Marine Science

Azara Mohammadi for Frontier Scientists – In 1996, Dr. Kate Hedstrom travelled to Norway to “Sit on Paul Budgell’s steps,” as she says. She went there to get a piece of code recently improved by Paul Budgell. “He promised his model and I went to Norway to get it!” says Kate. Hedstrom is an Oceanographic Specialist who has lived and worked in Alaska since 2001, at the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center (ARSC). The rewritten code Hedstrom traveled to Norway to... Read more

Iditarod sled dogs’ fat burning capabilities

Posted 12 March 2014 by Liz O'Connell

Sled dog / Image Christine Zenino (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists – “It is so instinctual to be doing what these dogs are doing...” Iditarod contestant and avid musher Mike Santos believes, “...That it really requires very little training.” Dogs love to run. Still, a musher’s challenges are daunting. Alaskan weather is fierce and unpredictable; handling logistics, supplies, the vagaries of trail conditions, and– perhaps most of all– knowing the capabilities of yourself and your team are vital for every racer. Santos chooses his sled dog... Read more

68 million ton landslide in Alaska: Mount La Perouse

Posted 6 March 2014 by Liz O'Connell

Using this imagery captured by the Operational Land Imager aboard the Landsat 8 satellite on February 23, 2014, scientists have confirmed that a large landslide occurred in southeastern Alaska on the flanks of Mount La Perouse on February 16, 2014. The landslide debris, which slid in a southeasterly direction, appears light brown compared to the snow-covered surroundings. / Courtesy NASA Earth Observatory, image by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists – February 16, 2014– A roar sounded unheard somewhere in the vicinity of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in remote southeast Alaska. Stone and debris, long part of Mount La Perouse, suddenly bowed to gravity as one of the mountain's near-vertical flanks collapsed.  The colossal landslide carried an estimated 68 million metric tons down Mount La Perouse. Rock, soil, snow and ice mixed and flowed, some of it tracking its way nearly 4.6 miles... Read more

Feeling the heat? 2013 fourth warmest year on record

Posted 28 February 2014 by Liz O'Connell

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists – The year 2013 was the fourth warmest year on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climate Data Center. 2013 tied with 2003 in NOAA’s record, which details global average temperatures all the way back to the year 1880. NOAA notes: "Including 2013, 9 of the 10 warmest years in the 134-year period of record have occurred in the 21st century. Only one year during the 20th century—1998—was warmer than 2013."... Read more

Atmospheric layers driving accelerated far North warming

Posted 19 February 2014 by Liz O'Connell

You can see evidence of a temperature inversion in this picture taken after a cold January night. The smoke rises and then spreads out, unable to mix with the higher warmer layer of air. / Image S/V Moonrise (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists – Recent research published in Nature Geoscience states that the largest contributors to warming in the Arctic are the region’s distinct surface temperatures coupled with the Arctic atmosphere’s prevailing vertical temperature structure. The research suggests that diminished snow and melting ice cover, previously thought to have the largest impact on Arctic warming by baring more dark surfaces which soak up heat from the Sun, in fact represents the second-largest contributor to Arctic warming. Temperature feedbacks... Read more