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Chasing a Shrinking Cryosphere from Mountains to the Sea: Our 10th year of Spring Snowmachine Traverses

4/13/2016

The day before we leave on our annual snowmachine traverse and things are dynamic as usual.  Our plan was for Andy to fly to Deadhorse today and then Ben, Allen, and I to fly up in the morning and all hitch a ride to Toolik via Magtec. Its been unusually warm in most of Alaska this spring, but is still acting like winter on the coastal plain with blizzard conditions and winds exceeding 30 mph making traveling from Deadhorse to our start point Toolik not advisable.

We're glad its acting like winter as it should be on the North Slope. But didn't want to get stuck in Deadhorse (should be called Dreadhorse) to start our trip off. So we did a quick Furious Four flex move and now have a UAF van to drive the haul road North tomorrow instead. Is a long drive, but will be nice to see the rapidly shrinking cryosphere on our Northward journey.

State of Alaska's Shrinking Cryosphere from Space

I'm envisioning spring-like ice-free road conditions until the Brooks Range. Once we go over Atigun Pass however, we'll find winter again. The plan is we'll stay ahead of spring until we make it to Barrow in early May.

10 years ago in May 2007, Ben and I went on our first snowmachine expedition in the name of Arctic science. Beginning in Barrow we traveled to Teshekpuk Lake with Dave Selkowitz and local bear guide Ronnie (not sure if he was watching out for bears or just part bear himself).  I was quite nervous about this trip and particularly so crossing sea ice on Dease Inlet. But it was solid and we had a safe and productive trip riding old BASC snowmachines and pulling traditional wood sleds. That trip solidified our thinking that if you want to understand Arctic landscapes, you need to travel them and see them in the winter.

 

This spring's traverse builds on similar trips over the last 9 years, studying lakes and the landscape. Its been an unusually warm winter though and I'm glad we're heading North!