Shepard Glacier is one of the disappearing glaciers
of Glacier National Park in Montana.
Courtesy USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center.
This column is provided as a public service by the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, in cooperation with the UAF research community. Ned Rozell is a science writer at the institute.
Some Alaska-related news, culled from the notebook after a week at the December meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco:
- Forest ecosystems dominated by black spruce trees in Alaska and Canada cover an area one-third the size of the land surface in the Lower 48, according to Eric Kasischke of the University of Maryland. That’s significant because the tree Alaska firefighters have called “gasoline on a stick” holds a lot of carbon that would be released to the atmosphere if it burns.
“We estimate that the black spruce forests in the North American boreal region store . . . nearly double the amount (of carbon) found in the forests of the 48 coterminous United States,” Kasischke wrote.
- Temperature inversions, a common occurrence in Fairbanks and other parts of Alaska with bowl-type topography, low winds, and not much sun in winter, seem to be getting stronger, according to Stefanie Bourne of the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She studied Fairbanks weather records from 1957 to 2005 and found that Fairbanks is seeing more days with strong inversions, where temperatures at the ground surface are colder than those at higher elevations.
“If inversion strength is really increasing it’ll have strong implications for pollution,” she said, adding that temperature inversions form a “cap” beneath which foul air can accumulate.