The Rains of September

Most folks following this blog know of my fascination with meteorology and my expression of said interest by participating in volunteer functions like ‘Skywarn spotting’ and ‘CoCoRaHS’ (Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow network) as well as reporting on the marvelous extremes of weather in The Last Frontier.  I’ve always been a sky watcher and had learned to predict short term weather in the lower 48 just by observing the clouds and winds along with the barometric pressure.  Since relocating to Alaska I’ve had to re-learn this knowledge as it is quite different this far north but I’m having great fun undertaking this re-education.

August is historically Talkeetna’s rainiest month averaging 4.5″ (11.43 cm) of rain but September is a close second at 4.2″ (10.67 cm) of rain.  As you may know from June and July’s wildfires in The Great Land 2015 has been very dry, at least up until this month.  During 2015 only July hit its historical rainfall amount although obviously September is going to grossly exceed its ‘typical’ rainfall!  As I watch the ongoing moderate rains out my office window I am again reminded that in Alaska the weather rules and we humans are just along for the ride and must learn to be both flexible and patient.  Since this latest rain event started last Saturday evening I’ve recorded 2.14″ (5.44 cm) of rain with 1.44″ (3.66 cm) of that amount occurring between 07:00 Sunday morning and 07:00 this (Monday, 09/28) morning.  Since sending in that report to CoCoRaHS this morning I’ve accumulated another 0.33″ (0.84 cm) or so as of 10:40 AKDST and the rain continues:

CoCoRaHS Rain Gauge showing 0.33

CoCoRaHS Rain Gauge showing 0.33″ accumulated rainfall in previous 3.6 hours!

I believe the aforementioned 1.44″ (3.66 cm) of rain across a 24 hour period is the largest amount I’ve recorded during such a time period since relocating to Alaska in September of 2013.

Yet this rain is just the precursor to what could well be significant accumulating snowfall which NWS is currently projecting to begin in roughly 24 hours for this area.  Everything depends upon the speed at which the very cold mass of Siberian air moves into the Mat-Su Valley; the faster this happens the more snow we will receive.  If it happens sooner than forecast we could see over 6″ (15.24 cm) of snow especially at elevations above 1,000 feet (304.8 m) in the Susitna Valley with larger accumulations further north.  If it arrives later then we’ll see more rain and less snow.  I sympathize with the forecasting folks at NWS because so much affects the movement of such an air mass like pressure, upper level winds, lower level winds in the mountains and temperature.

I am very concerned about the rain; given we’ve already seen 2.14″ (5.44 cm) since the event began Saturday evening and the rain is forecast to continue as moderate to heavy rain into Tuesday we could see amounts above 3.5″ (8.89 cm) across the period.  Because the ground is already beginning to freeze the water cannot soak in as well and hence tends to pool and form torrents which can and do wash out the local road system.  I am expecting to pick up a buddy flying from SW Michigan to Anchorage this Wednesday (09/30) evening and the only driving route to Anchorage is the Parks Highway (AK 3) to the Glenn Highway (AK 1).  There are numerous areas along the Parks between Talkeetna and the intersection with the Glenn which have washed out in the past and these conditions are as extreme in terms of rain as any I’ve experienced in my 24 months living up here.  I have driven the Parks in snow and ice but I’ve never had to negotiate washed out areas; at least that hadn’t been repaired before my arrival.

While I love snow and cold I must admit to hoping that the rains do not continue as they sure appear they will do; I’d rather negotiate a foot (30.48 cm) of snow than try to navigate washed out portions of the Parks!  Ironically my buddy is visiting in part to assist me with mounting an electric winch on my Escape; at least I do have a hand powered ‘come along’ capable of moving 4,000 pounds (1,841.4 kg) in the back cargo area along with my standard winter survival kit.  I never thought I’d be hoping for little snow and no more rain but this is the case!  I will remain glued to the NWS and ADOT websites especially tomorrow morning moving into Wednesday.  It appears Alaska is looking to test me once again and I can only rely on my experience and the reports from the aforementioned services to determine if I should attempt the drive Wednesday evening.  At least my buddy has the option of getting a rental car and motel room should the worst come to fruition…

I've never seen so much ponding water on my driveway! In fact I can never remember seeing any pools of water on the portion in this image!!

I’ve never seen so much ponding water on my driveway! In fact I can never remember seeing any pools of water on the portion in this image!!

 

Alaskan Adventure Images

If you’ve read any of the earlier posts in this blog you know about the awesome visit I just completed with my sister (Sally) and brother/brother in law (Gene) who hail from Monument, Colorado.  This was their first visit to Alaska and they did it right by spending a week sailing up the Inside Passage from Vancouver, debarking at Seward, catching a wildlife cruise in Resurrection Bay, visiting the town and Kenai Fjords National Park, taking a bus to Anchorage and then riding the Alaska Railroad to Talkeetna where I picked them up.  We spent 18 days together during which I was privileged to show them ‘my Alaska’ which consists of many locations most tourists don’t know exist let alone visit.  Some of the aforementioned include East End Road in Homer, the west side of the Kenai Peninsula, the Denali Highway and Teklanika campsite in Denali NP&P.

During their visit we all took hundreds of images and I want to share some which I really enjoyed.  With that said here’s the first ‘installment’:

A section of The Alaska Range as seen from a K2 Aviation Beaver during a flight-seeing trip which included a glacier landing

A section of The Alaska Range as seen from a K2 Aviation Beaver during a flight-seeing trip which included a glacier landing

A view of one of the command desks in the National Tsunami Warning Center located in Palmer

A view of one of the command desks in the National Tsunami Warning Center located in Palmer

Majestic Denali as seen from the shore of the Susitna River in downtown Talkeetna

Majestic Denali as seen from the shore of the Susitna River in downtown Talkeetna

The incredible Class 5+ white water in Devil's Canyon on the Susitna River; we toured this area on a wonderful tour with Mahay's Jet Boat Adventures

The incredible Class 5+ white water in Devil’s Canyon on the Susitna River; we toured this area on a wonderful tour with Mahay’s Jet Boat Adventures

The incredible beauty of the Alaska Range in morning light with the tussock tundra in fall color from the Denali Highway (AK 8)

The incredible beauty of the Alaska Range in morning light with the tussock tundra in fall color from the Denali Highway (AK 8)

A young grizzly in Denali NP&P's Sable Pass as seen from a tour bus

A young grizzly in Denali NP&P’s Sable Pass as seen from a tour bus

A pair of Sea Otters in Kachemak Bay as seen from our wildlife cruise courtesy of 'Bay Excursions' in Homer

A pair of Sea Otters in Kachemak Bay as seen from our wildlife cruise courtesy of ‘Bay Excursions’ in Homer

The flukes of a small Humpback Whale that came within ten feet of our boat in Kachemak Bay during our wildlife cruise!

The flukes of a small Humpback Whale that came within ten feet of our boat in Kachemak Bay during our wildlife cruise!

Back With A Vengeance!

It has been a while since I last posted on this site as my sister and brother in law visited me and we spent 18 wonderful days together during which I was privileged to show them ‘my Alaska’. I say ‘my Alaska’ because across the years I’ve discovered many magnificent places to visit which very few tourists even know exist let alone visit. Examples are the Denali Highway (AK 8), Teklanika campsite in Denali NP&P, the west side of the Kenai Peninsula and the East End Road in Homer which is at the terminus of the Sterling Highway (AK 1). Both were mesmerized by these and other locations; the fact they’ve spent maybe 35 years living on the front range of the Colorado Rockies only highlights the majesty and awe-inspiring nature of ‘The Great Land’. I was sad to say ‘adios’ to them in Anchorage yesterday but also whetted their appetite for a return trip by explaining we still had the east side of the state to explore. Hopefully we will be able to do so in the near future.

So now I’m once again able to post my thoughts and I find this initial piece will be a bit different from most of the previous. The nucleus for my post began to coalesce with my reading of an excellent tome titled “State of Fear” by Michael Crichton. It is an amazing read focusing on how ‘We the People’ are being manipulated by a consortium of political, legal and media special interest groups with a focus on the outright lies perpetrated by the extremists in the environmental circles. Without a doubt Mr. Crichton has his own opinions and some of his ‘science’ is both a bit slanted and outdated – the latter not his fault as the book was published in 2004 – but overall I found the book eye-opening to say the least. He makes it abundantly clear that the current ‘global warming’ disaster claims are based on shoddy and incomplete science at best and often employ fear-mongering along with political and economic pressures to produce the desired outcomes. If one doubts this I can only point to the fact that many of the websites and on-line postings he highlighted as support for his beliefs have since disappeared from sight.

But I truly enjoyed his basic message which is; “Think for yourself, do your own research, question everything and do not just buy-in to what the lame-stream media or the current political party are spewing!” I’ve often railed about the average American being led around by their noses through the liberally biased lame-stream media agendas thinly veiled as ‘news’. Even these losers no longer try to claim they are ‘journalists’; indeed, we haven’t seen true journalism in these outlets since the early seventies. To me this should make it even more apparent to those of us who can remember the likes of Murrow and Cronkite – both of liberal beliefs, by the way, but unwilling to color their reporting with their own beliefs – that the current mass media outlets all have their own biases and use their programming to push said agendas. The purpose of ‘the Fifth Estate’ was to be a watchdog on the federal and state governments; given they now support liberal politics and smear anything else should not be lost on the American people.

Imagine my surprise when yesterday I read a story in ‘Discovery News’ which spoke to the falsehoods behind the environmental extremists who have been shouting that polar bears will be extinct due to starvation by 2068 when it is forecast that the Arctic sea ice will be absent 180 consecutive days each year. Apparently a just released report from American Museum of Natural History now states that polar bears are much more adaptable regarding food sources than the wacko environmental extremists wanted us to believe. There is now reason to believe these bruins will learn to eat other food sources which will substitute for the seal pups they will no longer be able to hunt and kill in the absence of Arctic ice. Of course this will pressure the species and that is not good but their impending extinction so touted by extreme environmentalists as a clear sign of our impending doom will most likely not materialize.

Do I doubt the climate is changing? Not in the least; the earth’s history shows the climate has been in continual flux since there was a ‘climate’. Do I doubt we are seeing warming temps? Living in Alaska this is abundantly clear and other world-wide data would seem to support this concept. Do I believe man is the main cause? By no means!! While I do believe mankind has contributed to the warming I remain unsure as to just how much. In addition I feel we know so little about the Earth’s climate over the past billion years we should not try to draw conclusions based upon a mere century or even a millennium of data. Only now are we beginning to learn of the effect of solar cycles on the Earth’s climate; the jury is still out on creeping shifts in the magnetic poles. I could go on and on but I believe I’ve made my point.

If we are to truly trust scientific research then we need to completely remove the influence of funding from special interest groups with their own agendas, allow research that is free from political pressure based upon pseudo-science and remove the emotionalism from all scientific efforts. Without this we will almost certainly continue to exist in a ‘state of fear’…