Stories tagged Alaska

The Science Museum is a fantastic museum. I love museums -- and there are a lot in the Twin Cities! I haven't been to them all yet, but the Hennepin County Public Library system is going to help me out this summer.

How? They run the Museum Adventure Pass program that allows families up to two free admissions to more than a dozen area museums. Including the Bell Museum of Natural History.
Georgeous Alaska: Ok, so this was not taken by Jeff Jones, but Flickr user B Mully did a pretty great job of capturing Sheridan Glacier in Cordova, Alaska, right?  I love me some pretty photos.
Georgeous Alaska: Ok, so this was not taken by Jeff Jones, but Flickr user B Mully did a pretty great job of capturing Sheridan Glacier in Cordova, Alaska, right? I love me some pretty photos.Courtesy B Mully

Speaking of which, I just read here about a new exhibit I can hardly wait to check out:

"A new exhibit, [Arctic Sanctuary: Our Collective Refuge,] opening June 25 at the Bell Museum of Natural History, presents images and information of this wild region."

Interestingly, the exhibit is based on the photography of wilderness landscape photographer Jeff Jones -- yet another marriage of art and science.

So check out your local library, grab one of those museum passes, and come check out the Bell's new Alaska exhibit this summer!

Jul
16
2009

The burning you feel is your childhood evaporating: Also, your skin.
The burning you feel is your childhood evaporating: Also, your skin.Courtesy jurvetson
Ho-ly spit.

Zo-mg.

We are in deep trouble, friends, enemies and Buzzketeers.

Screw rising sea levels. Nuts to dwindling glacier-based freshwater reserves. Forget desertification. The real danger of global warming we’ve known about since 1958 and we’ve done nothing to prevent it. In our arrogance, we thought we’d be safe forever, but now the chickens have come home to roost. And they’re roosting hard.

Is it possible that you don’t know what I’m talking about yet?

Well, let me explain it to you in a roundabout way.

Remember being a kid in 1958, sitting in your home entertainment room, petting your chinchilla in the dark (not a euphemism), and eating a box of Gushers as you watched your Blu-ray of Steve McQueen’s The Blob? Remember how you felt when that little piece of space goo started to eat that old dude’s hand? Those Gushers burned like the blob’s acid touch, no doubt. And remember when you realized that no amount of hot lead was going to stop the blob, because, duh, why would bullets hurt space goo? You probably squeezed your poor chinchilla to death in your anxiety. Do you recall the little pinprick of hope you felt at the blob’s response to a blast from the CO2 filled fire extinguisher, and the final surge of relief as they crated the awful thing to the arctic, where it could be kept in safety… JUST SO LONG AS THE %@$##$%ING ARCTIC STAYS COLD… QUESTION MARK????!!!!!!!!!

If your chinchilla wasn’t dead already, it didn’t stand a chance at that point, because you were convulsively squeezing everything within reach, and vomiting half-digested Gushers all over your parents’ modern Scandinavian furniture. But no, soothes your nanny, as she strokes your hair and gently clears the Gushers from your airway, that could never happen. It’s the arctic she says, and, standing in the lit doorway behind her, your personal chef nods reassuringly. That’s why they call it “the arctic,” he says in his heavy Japanese accent. Your normal childhood is safe from a life of constant monster threat.

Or so you thought. It’s fifty years later, the arctic is melting, and, in many respects, you’re still a child. And the blob is free.

So far the number of humans-dissolved-alive remains at or near zero, but I expect this figure to skyrocket any day now, as the blob has been seen off the northern coast of Alaska.

The blob has been observed floating in dark, gooey looking mats on the surface of the ocean. The strands of goo are reported to be up to 12 miles long.

What you’re trying to convince yourself, I’m sure, is that this is no blob, but just another harmless oil spill. Wrong-o, says the local coastguard.

“It's certainly biological,” a coastguard petty officer reports. “It's definitely not an oil product of any kind. It has no characteristics of an oil, or a hazardous substance, for that matter.” The smell and composition, he says, suggest that it’s some natural substance, but it’s nothing that any of the locals remember seeing before. But they need only to return to their home theaters, and I’m sure they’ll recognize the substance in no time.

The substance is dark, hangs off the ice when they come in contact, and appears to be “hairy” when examined closely. “It kind of has an odor,” explained one of the locals on the goo expedition, “I can't describe it.” Well, I’ll describe the smell for you: fear.

Jellyfish have been seen tangled up in the blob, and one local turned in the remains of a dead goose, “just bones and feathers,” that had supposedly been found in the goo.

Samples of the blob were brought to Anchorage for analysis. Waste of time, if you ask me. The coastguard pilots that helped retrieve the sample are pretty certain it’s some kind of algae, but that’s what the military would say. It’s the blob.

Hide yourselves. Save your game frequently. Cherish what you remember of “normal life,” because it’s all about to change.

Here's some video footage from the Mt. Redoubt volcano blast in Alaska. Ash from the blast is threatening a nearby oil refinery. And here's the initial Buzz report on the eruption from earlier this week.

Mar
23
2009

Newly erupted: This view of Mt. Redoubt is looking south as the volcano begins to erupt and send an ash cloud into the sky.
Newly erupted: This view of Mt. Redoubt is looking south as the volcano begins to erupt and send an ash cloud into the sky.Courtesy Alaska Volcano Observatory / U.S. Geological Survey
It's been giving off warning signs for nearly two months now, but Mt. Redoubt in Alaska has erupted five times in the past days, sending an ash cloud nine miles high into the sky.

Here's the full Associated Press news account of the eruption.

Volcano eruptions are always interesting to those interested in science, but I'm guessing there will be even more discussion about the topic now as the federal government's volcano monitoring program was criticized as a "pork project" by Republicans in the aftermath of President Obama's recent budget proposal. And Buzz readers weighed in on that on this discussion thread.

Mt. Redoubt is about 100 miles southwest of Anchorage in a sparsely populated section of Alaska (but then again, isn't most of Alaska sparsely populated?). Prevailing winds are blowing most of the ash away from Anchorage, but people in the coastal city are feeling some of the impacts of the blast.

Also, the eruption has altered air traffic patterns in the area as ash suspended in the air can cause problems to passing planes.

Geologists in Alaska are monitoring the rumblings at Mt. Redoubt, a volcano about 100 miles southwest of Anchorage. The volcano has had some spectacular eruptions in the past, including a big blow in 1989. Click here for more details. Create your own Sarah Palin joke in your head.

Jul
28
2008

Okmok in eruption, 7/21/2008: Aerial overflight courtesy of Air Station Kodiak, US Coast Guard, photographer Tina Neal.
Okmok in eruption, 7/21/2008: Aerial overflight courtesy of Air Station Kodiak, US Coast Guard, photographer Tina Neal.Courtesy AVO/USGS
Two volcanoes in the Alaskan Aleutian Islands have been erupting since last week – the first time in over 30 years two volcanoes in the region have had simultaneous eruptions.

Scientists from the Alaskan Volcano Observatory were first aware of the eruption of Mount Okmok, a shield volcano on Umnak Island. The eruption began on July 12 with no advance warning and has continued erupting since. The latest update (July 27) indicates that, “The amplitude and duration of seismic activity has increased over the past 11 hours. Satellite data indicate a possible thermal anomaly that may be due to solar reflection of the plume. The most recent satellite images show the potential Okmok plume at less than 10,000'. Stronger explosive activity could resume at any time with little or no warning.”

Astronaut photo of ash cloud from Mount Cleveland, May 23, 2006: Image of Mount Cleveland from a 2006 eruption.
Astronaut photo of ash cloud from Mount Cleveland, May 23, 2006: Image of Mount Cleveland from a 2006 eruption.Courtesy NASA
While studying the eruption of Mount Okmok scientists at the Alaskan Volcano Observatory then noticed that Mount Cleveland, a stratovolcano on Chuginadak Island was also erupting. Reports from fishing boats indicate that the eruption began on July 21 and the most recent update (July 27) says that, “Thermal anomalies seen in satellite views suggest the presence of lava on the surface near Cleveland's summit. Satellite images also indicate a possible ash cloud traveling SE from the volcano at less than 20,000 feet.” Cleveland is a more active volcano than Okmok having last erupted in 2005.

Both volcanoes are at alert level orange, the second highest alert level. The National Weather Service issues a 24-hour ash fall advisory for Umnak Island and the southwest portion of Unalaska Island.

The Alaskan Volcano Observatory has lots of great resources on these eruptions, including a web cam of Mount Cleveland and they have lots of other webcams of other volcanoes too. They monitor seismic activity in real time for 30 volcanoes in Alaska and analyze satellite images of all the Alaskan volcanoes for evidence of eruption. Another great source of information if you are into learning more about volcanoes is the Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program.

Jul
09
2007

Rainbow coalition: Alaskan wildlife officials are using cheap hair dyes to color the fur of problem bears. Doing that, they think, will save many bears from being immediately killed from having negative interactions with humans. (Graphic from the Anchorage Daily News)
Rainbow coalition: Alaskan wildlife officials are using cheap hair dyes to color the fur of problem bears. Doing that, they think, will save many bears from being immediately killed from having negative interactions with humans. (Graphic from the Anchorage Daily News)
When you’ve seen one grizzly bear, you’ve seen them all, right?

Not in Alaska. Grizzlies that have become nuisance bears – repeatedly having negative interactions with the human populations up in the 49th state – are getting a drastic, punk makeover.

Wildlife officials are dousing the problem bears with brightly colored hair dyes, giving humans coming in their way a quick sign that these bears have caused trouble in the past. This summer, you might just see a grizzly in Alaska decked out in yellow, green, orange or blue fur.

Okay all you self-righteous animal activists. Before you hit the reply button to submit your protest to this idea, take a second to read the reasoning behind all of this.

In the past, problem bears were shot dead. No second chances. Just get them out of the picture.

The fur dying idea is a way to avoid that drastic measure. Now people will have a quick, dramatic visual clue that they are in the vicinity of a problem bear and can use that information to decide how they want to proceed with interactions with the creature.

Game officials will actually tranquilize the problem bears, shampoo their head, shoulders and hind quarters before applying the dye.

Over the past several summers, many grizzlies have been shot by game officials or by private citizens who felt threatened by the bears’ behavior. But will a funky new fur color have impacts on the bears’ interactions with other members of their own species? No one is sure about that.

What do you think about coloring bears’ fur for these purposes? Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.

Jun
13
2007

Whale of a catch: This aerial view of a bowhead whale shows how large the creatures can get. A bowhead over 100 years old was recently captured off the coast of Alaska. (Photo courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration)
Whale of a catch: This aerial view of a bowhead whale shows how large the creatures can get. A bowhead over 100 years old was recently captured off the coast of Alaska. (Photo courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration)
How long to whales live?

That’s a hard question to answer as the best way to get age information from the giants is to measure the amino acid levels in their eyes.

But an easier dating tool was found in a bowhead whale that was killed off of the coast of Alaska earlier this year. Embedded in the whale’s neck was an arrow-shaped tool, about three inches long, that was patented in 1879. So whale experts are figuring that the bowhead survived some kind of fishing attack at least 100 years ago. They’ve targeted the whale’s age to be between 115 and 130 years old.

In fact, the particular type of arrowhead found in the whale was groundbreaking for its time. It was filled with explosives that were supposed to go off on impact to further hurt the whale. With the particular case, that didn't work out, and the whale was probably annoyed, but not stopped, by the hit.

It’s rare to find centurion whales, but a few can live that long and there are documented cases of whales living to be 200 years old.

The captured Alaskan bowhead was 49 feet long and was speared using today’s more modern technology. It’s capture was completely legitimate. The Alaskan Eskimo Whaling Commission allows native villagers to take up to 255 whales from Alaskan waters each season

Yesterday, scientists in Alaska started testing migratory birds for signs of the H5N1 avian flu. For more information on avian flu, check out our online feature.

Aug
07
2005

There is often a tension between the scientists who study a subject and the people who live in the area of interest.
Recently in Alaska, scientists have began using the oral histories of native Alaskans as another source of evidence for climate change.

Residents of Alaska have been saying that the 1970's were a turning point as far as noticing changes in weather patterns and conditions.
Maggie Attila, from Galena, stated, "The last couple of years has been really crazy. It is kind of scary when the wind comes up at the wrong time and we have rain in the winter."

Do you think that Alaskan residents are a useful source of information about climate change? Does the Attila's statement make you think of the past few years of Minnesotan weather?