Spring is coming! How do I know? The sun is blindingly bright on the snow, the days are getting longer (almost 11 hours today) and OLLI classes (Osher Livelong Learning Institute) have started. That’s why this post is a day late–I had classes yesterday in rocks and fossils, the science of smell, and Beringia. Fridays it’s the health care system and one on health problems for us old fossils (the non-rocky kind.) Expect the weather reports to be on Tuesdays this month.
Sunrise this morning was 7:35 am; sunset will be at 6:30 pm, and we’re gaining six and three-quarter minutes a day. The sun is more than 20 degrees above the horizon at noon, and the sun’s warmth, while not enough to start melting the snow by direct radiation on that white surface, is producing some melt around the edges of snow patches on dark surfaces. Sunlight on the back of the thermometer has even pushed it to above freezing, though the air temperature when I took the picture was 6 below. The local weather forecast (which I trust a lot more than I do the forecast on my iPhone) says highs today will be 15 to 25 above. Definitely spring by Alaskan standards, even if the ice from the freezing rain last November is still on the roads.
That ice will be a real problem once it really warms up. Right now, we have what is called an omega block with high pressure aloft over the Bering strait steering winds from the Arctic Ocean over interior Alaska. Breakup of such a blocking situation is a very difficult forecasting problem, but if the numerical forecasts mean anything, we might have warm upper winds from the Pacific by the official start of spring, March 20. If so, cars will be all over the roads. Cold ice isn’t really that slippery, if you’re used to driving on it and if you have appropriate tires and all-wheel drive. Ice near the freezing point is something else!