Alaska's King

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Welcome from the King of Alaska.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Spiders migrating to Alaska

Anchorage, Alaska - They make your skin crawl when you see them and Anchorage is seeing a lot more of them these days. With an increase in spiders come more reports of spider bites. Just within the last week Providence Alaska Medical Center says more and more people are coming in to be treated after being bitten. Exterminators say business is booming.

If you're in the pest control business you're doing pretty well for yourself. Exterminators are dealing with an ever-increasing bug problem.

Russell Perry is on a hunt. Searching in the darkest, wettest corners for a culprit so tiny you almost don't see it. For $300 Perry will get rid of these guys. He's been exterminating a lot of spiders lately.

“It's been extremely heavy this year compared to previous years,” said Ken Perry of Paratex Pied Piper Pest Control.

Almost two jobs a day. Ken Perry, Russell’s boss, says spiders have become big business this year. He suspects it's because of milder winters.

“We had a gorgeous beginning of summer, very dry and warm at the beginning of the summer and the insect population has exploded and the spiders follow that population explosion,” said Ken Perry.

An explosion that could affect your wallet and your health. Just ask Connie Suchan.

“I went to the doctors’ July 24 for what I thought was just a scrape that for some reason wouldn't heal,” said Suchan.

It didn't turn out to be a scrape. Suchan says it was a spider bite from a Brown Recluse, an insect not native to Alaska.

It’s one of the most dangerous spider bites you can get, but according to Ken Perry, it's not the only one. He's also seen Hobo and Black Widow spiders in Alaska.

Providence says if it is a spider bite it will become red and swollen. Some of these bites don’t go away for several months. It might be several days before you realize that you’ve been bitten. You may get sores or start itching.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

For Sale: 15 National parks

U.S. Rep. Richard Pombo, chairman of the House Resources committee, has proposed to raise money by selling off 15 national parks, including seven in Alaska, according to a draft bill circulating Friday.

Park supporters declared themselves outraged.

"Can you believe this Pombo guy?" said Jim Stratton, Alaska director for the National Parks Conservation Association.

But Pombo's spokesman, Brian Kennedy, said the 285-page draft is not to be taken seriously. Its purpose, Kennedy said, was to come up with proposals that would raise as much money for the federal government as oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which Pombo ardently supports.

Drilling opponents should see that if Congress doesn't open ANWR "it would be outrageous and absurd alternatives, like selling national park units," Kennedy said. "So you see the joke."

The National Parks Conservation Association obtained a leaked copy and rang the media alarm. By Friday afternoon, the story was all over the place.

The 19 million Alaska acres on Pombo's list:

• Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve

• Bering Land Bridge National Preserve

• Cape Krusenstern National Monument

• Kobuk Valley National Park

• Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

• Noatak National Preserve

• Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve

Pombo, R-Calif., included the park sell-off in a draft of the budget reconciliation bill, a tool Congress sometimes uses to reach budget goals. As chairman of the resources committee, he was charged with proposing changes to public land laws to raise or save $2.4 billion. As expected, his draft also includes a plan to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, which is projected to meet Pombo's revenue requirement on its own.

Kristin Pugh, a spokeswoman for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, said she likes the ANWR part. As for the Pombo's park proposal, "I can definitely tell you that Sen. Murkowski won't be going along with that," Pugh said.

Pete Schaeffer, chairman of the Cape Krusenstern subsistence resources commission in Kotzebue, doesn't think it is a joke. He sees the draft as a threat to the rural Alaskans who depend on hunting in those parks for their food.

The government needs money, and the deficit is ballooning, he said. The rest of the country might think selling Alaska parks is a good idea, he said.

"With our 'bridges to nowhere,' there's probably little sympathy for us," Schaeffer said, referring to the $450 million Alaska got this summer for two mega-spans.

Pombo is a rancher who represents the San Joaquin Valley and believes the government intrudes too much on private property owners. His congressional Web site features photos of him in a cowboy hat as well as recipes for his "BBQ marinade" and guacamole.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

If a mountain fell in the Alaska wilderness . . .



Jackie Caplan-Auerbach was checking earthquake activity at Alaska volcanoes from her Anchorage office on September 14th, a routine she performs every day at the Alaska Volcano Observatory, when she noticed a strange seismic signal on Mount Spurr.


jpg Alaska Mt. Steller


A view of an enormous
rock delta from the avalanche of Mt. Steller that registered
on seismometers all over Alaska. The amount of rock and ice that
fell was equal to a pile one mile long, one-third mile wide,
and 50 yards high.

Ruedi Homberger photo, courtesy of Ultima Thule Lodge.

  



A large shock to the earth-not as abrupt as an earthquake-had happened somewhere in Alaska. When Caplan-Auerbach saw the odd signal was even stronger on Mount Wrangell, she suspected there was a great avalanche somewhere in the restless corner of Alaska where the panhandle of Southeast meets the rest of the state.

There was. A good chunk of Mount Steller, a razorback 10,000-foot peak about 80 miles east of Cordova, had collapsed onto Bering Glacier. Rocks and ice from the mountain tumbled 8,000 vertical feet, spilling out in a chunky black delta that reached six miles from the mountain. Christian Huggel, a Swiss avalanche specialist who happened to be visiting the Alaska Volcano Observatory in Anchorage, estimated that the amount of rock and ice that shook loose was equal to a pile one mile long, one-third mile wide, and 50 yards high.

Caplan-Auerbach studies avalanches on Iliamna Volcano, but the largest recorded avalanches there are about one-fifth of the size of the recent event at Mt. Steller.

"We've seen big ones, but we've never seen them generate seismic signals like this," she said. "It's a monster."

Scientists at the Alaska Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer also noticed the avalanche when it happened. They called the Alaska Earthquake Information Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks to confirm.

"It showed on all our instruments on mainland Alaska," Natalia Ruppert of the earthquake information center said, adding that the amplitude of the event was about equal to a magnitude 3.8 earthquake, and more than 200 seismometers all over the state picked up its vibrations.

Scientists who monitor infrasound waves-signals with frequencies too low for humans to hear, generated by blasts from underground nuclear bombs and winter storms in the Gulf of Alaska, among other sources-also detected the avalanche from Fairbanks, 330 miles away from Mount Steller.

"It was a nice big signal here," said Daniel Osborne of UAF's Geophysical Institute.

Sometimes large earthquakes trigger massive avalanches, as happened in 2002 when the Denali Fault earthquake shook acres of rocks over Black Rapids and other glaciers, but Mount Steller broke for reasons unknown.

"It's one of those big puzzles," Caplan-Auerbach said. "A lot of these (steep mountains) probably sit right on the verge of failure."

In her studies of Iliamna Volcano, Caplan-Auerbach has found that avalanches like the one on Mount Steller sometimes rumble one-half hour to two hours before they collapse, possibly due to the fracturing of ice at the base of the avalanche material. She just submitted a paper on the curious tendency of some avalanches to move before they collapse.

"I don't think anyone's ever seen avalanches that give warnings," she said.

One of the unique features about the giant avalanche of September 14, 2005 on Mount Steller was that perhaps no one saw it or felt it. The nearest settlements, tens of miles away, were too far for people there to feel the rumbling.

"It shows how wonderful Alaska is," Caplan-Auerbach said. "Places like Iliamna could break in half and nobody would be killed."

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 [nrozell@gi.alaska.edu]
is a science writer at the institute.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Major Storm batters Western Alaska coast

A major storm sweeping through the Bering Sea is causing widespread flooding in coastal villages throughout western Alaska. Some of the hardest-hit areas are communities in Norton Sound, including Nome. But the affected areas stretch for hundreds of miles.



High winds from the south, coupled with a large storm surged, brought the crashing surf into Nome, spreading water onto Front Street.

Source: http://www.ktuu.com/cms/templates/master.asp?articleid=47&zoneid=1

U.S. Senate bill has millions for Alaska

Finally, some small relief for Rural Alaska Villages:

"The U.S. Senate approved an agriculture spending bill Thursday maintaining several multimillion dollar programs in Alaska that Sen. Ted Stevens developed during his chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The Senate bill would put $26 million into grants and loans for rural water and sewer systems during the coming federal fiscal year. That's the same amount as was provided in the current year's spending bill.

Another $28 million would go to energy projects in areas with extremely high energy costs, mostly in Alaska. Again, the figure is the same as this year's.

The third program, to build community facilities, would route $20 million to areas of extreme unemployment, again mostly in Alaska. The total would be down $1 million from the current year.

The Senate bill must still be merged with a House version and signed by the president, but Stevens has in past years succeeded in protecting such earmarks during that process.

Other Alaska earmarks in the Senate's spending plan for the Agriculture Department include:

* $3.47 million for education grants to institutions that serve Alaska and Hawaii Natives.

* $1 million for berry research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

* No change in funding to UAF for virus-free potato research, and nuisance insect management and seafood waste studies.

* $200,000 to teach gardening techniques in villages.

* $100,000 to the state to "address nuisance animals."

* Language encouraging the purchase of domestic salmon for federal food programs.

* Similar support for grants to Alaska groups to market wild salmon.

* Support for grants to the Alaska Grown program.

* Language encouraging grants to tribes to buy land within Alaska Indian communities.

* $300,000 for commercialization of Alaska's native plants.

* $500,000 to the Natural Resource Conservation Service for an inventory of resources on non-federal land.

* $1.5 million for a "cooperative agreement" involving the Alaska Soil and Water Conservation District.

* $1.3 to finish the Alaska Plant Materials Center.

* $300,000 to collect and study northern plants.

* Language directing that money for food safety be used to contract with the state of Alaska to conduct seafood inspection.

* $500,000 to Alaska Village Initiatives for wildlife management on private lands.

The Senate on Thursday also passed a military construction spending bill for the coming year, but Alaska details were not immediately available.

Coming To The Arctic Near You: The Longer, Hotter Summer

difference in snow and vegitationFAIRBANKS,
AK--In a paper that shows dramatic summer warming in arctic Alaska,
scientists synthesized a decade of field data from Alaska showing
summer warming is occurring primarily on land, where a longer snow-free
season has contributed more strongly to atmospheric heating than have
changes in vegetation.

Arctic climate change is usually viewed as caused by the
retreat of sea ice, which reduces high-latitude albedo- a measure of
the amount of sunlight reflected off a surface - a change most
pronounced in winter.

"Summer warming is more pronounced over land than over sea ice,
and atmosphere and sea-ice observations can’t explain this," said Terry
Chapin, professor of ecology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’
Institute of Arctic Biology and lead author of the paper which appears
in the September 22, 2005 advance online publication Science Express,

Using surface temperature records, satellite-based estimates of
cloud cover and energy exchange, ground-based measurements of albedo
and field observations of changes in snow cover and vegetation, Chapin
and co-authors argue that recent changes in the length of the snow-free
season have triggered a set of interlinked feedbacks that will amplify
future rates of summer warming.

"It’s the changes in season length rather than increases in
vegetation that explains this observation," Chapin said. Summer warming
correlates with a lengthening of the snow-free season that has
increased atmospheric heating locally by an amount similar in magnitude
to the regional heating expected over multiple decades from a doubling
of atmospheric carbon dioxide, say the authors.

"Snowmelt is 2.5 days earlier for each decade we studied, Chapin said.
eddy covariance towerTwo
mechanisms explain the pronounced warming over land during the summer.
First, the early snow melt increases the length of time the land
surface can absorb heat energy. Second, the increase in snow-free
ground permits increases in vegetation such shrubs and advances of
treelines.

"Continuation of current trends in shrub and tree expansion
could further amplify this atmospheric heating 2-7 times," Chapin said.

"This mechanism should be incorporated into climate models,"
Chapin said. Improved understanding of the controls over rates of shrub
expansion would reduce the likelihood of surprises in the magnitude of
high-latitude amplification of summer warming.

Researchers were funded by the National Science Foundation,
Office of Polar Programs, ARCtic System Science program--the goal ARCSS
is to answer the question: What do changes in the arctic system imply
for the future?

###



High-resolution photographs are available for download at www.uaf.edu/news/download/releasephotos/05/chapin/.

Contact:
F. Stuart (Terry) Chapin III, Professor of Ecology, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks. 907-474-7922, terry.chapin@uaf.edu.


Dr. Matthew Sturm, Research Physical Scientist, U.S. Army, Cold
Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory Alaska. 907-353-5183, Matthew.Sturm@erdc.usace.army.mil.

Marie Gilbert, Publications and Information Coordinator,
Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks.
907-474-7412, marie.gilbert@uaf.edu.

Friday, September 09, 2005

25 Mind-Numbingly Stupid Quotes About Hurricane Katrina And Its Aftermath

If there was not enough evidence to support a Constitutional Monarchy (for all the right reasons) before, or if you need more evidence of the need for Alaska to have independence-then read the above link.

Arctic Shrubs Contribute to Global Warming

Warming in the Arctic is stimulating the growth of vegetation and could affect the delicate energy balance there, causing an additional climate warming of several degrees over the next few decades. A new study indicates that as the number of dark-colored shrubs in the otherwise stark Arctic tundra rises, the amount of solar energy absorbed could increase winter heating by up to 70 percent. The research will be published 7 September in the first issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences, published by the American Geophysical Union.

The study in western Alaska during the winters in 2000-2002 shows how the increasing abundance of high-latitude vegetation, particularly shrubs, interacts with the snow and affects Earth's albedo, or the reflection of the Sun's rays from the surface. The paper, which also analyzes the ramifications of continued plant growth in the tundra regions, written by researchers at the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory and at Colorado State University. It presents the first evidence that shrub growth could alter the winter energy balance of the Arctic and subarctic tundra in a substantial way.

The authors measured five adjacent sites in subarctic Alaska. They included areas covered by continuous forest canopy, others dotted with shrubs, and some of barren tundra. They found that mid-winter albedo was greatly reduced where shrubs were exposed and that melting began several weeks earlier in the spring at these locations, as compared to snow-covered terrain. The researchers note, however, that the shrubs' branches produced shade that slowed the rate of melting, so that the snowmelt finished at approximately the same time for all the sites they examined.

Matthew Sturm, lead author of the study, notes that warming in the region seems to have stimulated shrub growth, which further warms the area and creates a feedback effect that can promote higher temperatures and even more growth. This feedback could, in turn, accelerate increases in the shrubs' range and size over the four million square kilometer [1.5 million square mile] tundra and effect significant changes over the region.

"Basically, if tundra is converted to shrubland, more solar energy will be absorbed in the winter than before," Sturm says. And while previous research has shown that warmer temperatures during the Arctic summer enhance shrub growth, "our study is important because it suggests that the winter processes could also contribute to and amplify the rate of the [growth]."

Sturm cites satellite and photographic evidence showing increasing plant growth across the Alaskan, Canadian, and Euro-Asian Arctic and notes that continued warming will likely produce thicker stands of brush that protrude above the snow. The new, brushy landscape would replace the smooth, white environment that currently dominates the Arctic during its 8-10 month winter.

In addition, the increasing shrub cover would impact more than just the energy balance in the Arctic. With nearly 40 percent of the world's soil carbon is stored in Arctic soils, any change in vegetation and energy is likely to trigger a response in the Arctic carbon budget. Scientists are still trying to understand the nature of this response, but Sturm and his coauthors conclude that the feedback effects they describe would undoubtedly accelerate its rate. They conclude that combined effects of increasing shrubs on both energy and carbon could change the Arctic in a way that affects the rest of the world.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Alaskan fish processors use fish oil for fuel

OIL cooked out of fish heads, entrails and skeletons is generating heat and electricity for fish processors on the Aleutian Island of Unalaska, napanews.com has reported.

Alaska companies are among the first in the world to use fish oil on a large scale as a cheaper, and more environmentally friendly substitute for diesel fuel.

At Unisea Inc., in Dutch Harbor, thousands of gallons of pollock fish oil are mixed each day with diesel and used to power the seaside plant's electrical generators and boilers. Replacing diesel with fish oil cuts costs, as well as harmful emissions such as sulfur and particulates, according to Unisea officials. In addition, the seafood company also saves on the expensive shipping rates it would otherwise have to pay to send the fish waste to buyers outside Alaska, such as aquaculture companies who use the oil as fish feed. The research and development manager for Unisea said that the orangish hue of pollock oil comes from the tiny krill the fish feast on in the Bering Sea. Blending the oil with diesel yields a pale yellowish liquid that leaves no fishy odours. The Unisea company and several fish processors in Alaska have used fish oil to run their boilers for years, but in 2001 Unisea, with the help of state funding, became the first to power its electrical generators with the renewable fuel.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

If you've lost a snake in Alaska, it might be dead

There are not supposed to be snakes in Alaska, but evidence to the contrary may have been found in Haines.

An 8-inch serpent was found crushed on the side of a road, leaving residents wondering if it was wild or an escaped pet.

The snake was found on Small Tracts Road and is not an ideal specimen. Crushed by a car and found on the shoulder of the road, it's dry, discolored and missing most of its skull.

"It could be the first vouchered specimen of a snake in Alaska," he told the Chilkat Valley News. Then again, it could be an escaped pet.

The carcass was in marginal shape.

"Real mashed," Shields said. "It had been there quite some time."

He's still gathering information, however, and urged residents to contact him at the Takshanuk Watershed Council.

"I'd be very curious to hear from anyone who lost a snake," he said.

Submitted by a reader.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Survival Expert Q & A

Tomorrow we will be starting a thread featuring a survival expert. This man is a U.S. Army Instructor, and has put to the test the tips he will be providing in jungle, Arctic, desert, mountain, and other environments, both urban and wilderness. Post your questions here, and he will answer them, as well as provide tips.

Thank you SGM.

‘Computer Geeks' Get Bomb Training

Submitted by a soldier: YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — The 201st Signal Company's self-described “computer geeks” ventured outdoors Friday for familiarization training on improvised explosive devices.

Company commander Capt. Allan Goode said the global war on terror and “everything going on in Iraq” led Army leaders to direct that additional combat-skills training be given. His company belongs to the 41st Signal Battalion, 1st Signal Brigade.

That his soldiers, “computer geeks, if you will,” spend most of their time in Korea on desk jobs means the training is even more important, Goode said.

He praised Staff Sgt. James Gilbert, a former infantryman, for researching and conducting the class as preparation for a convoy live-fire exercise in November.

The 26-year-old Gilbert served as a Bradley Fighting Vehicle gunner in Kosovo in 2000 where, he said, he experienced the threat of homemade bombs firsthand. Gilbert said that experience, plus a lot of research, helped him prepare. He said Friday's class was the first phase of a three-part crawl, walk and run learning process.

Gilbert, who now works with the company as a senior information systems analyst, said passing the knowledge on to his coworkers is important.

The homemade bombs are killing and injuring soldiers “every single day” in Iraq, he said.

His noncommissioned officer in charge, Sgt. 1st Class Kanelos, agreed on how important the training was to the troops.

He said Korea is the first duty station for many of the soldiers in the class, but when they rotate they'll find themselves in “units of action,” meaning deployments to the war on terror.

“This is good,” he said before the class.

The soldiers sat at picnic tables as Gilbert showed the mock-ups of homemade bombs.

The goal, he told the class, was to teach them to identify and react to “anything that goes boom.”

These are “all things they've seen in Iraq,” he said, pointing to the table. He told the soldiers that 87 percent of the injuries and deaths in Iraq are attributed to the bombs.

Soldiers were schooled in the best methods to search for the explosives and how they should react — including detailed instructions on cordons, entry into suspect areas and filing reports — in a real-world situation.

“Stay alert, stay alive,” Gilbert said.