Ned Rozell is a science writer at the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks.
While trolling the poster sessions at the Moscone Center in San Francisco during the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting — attended by more than 13,000 scientists — a person bumps into a great deal of information on Alaska.
Here are some notes from the legal pad:
• A scientist who has monitored temperatures in and around Barrow since 2001 has found that the “urban” area of Barrow averages 2 degrees Celsius warmer than the surrounding tundra in the winter and is sometimes 6 degrees warmer.
Ken Hinkel of the University of Cincinnati documented Barrow’s “heat island” with 70 instruments that have recorded temperatures in and around Barrow once an hour since 2001.
He wanted to see if man-made warmth in Barrow had anything to do with the fact that the snowmelt date at Barrow is now three weeks earlier than it was in the 1940s.
Researchers have found heat islands in many other cities in America, but Hinkel said that Barrow is different because there are few vehicles there, which means that most of the heat measured must be escaping from buildings in winter.
He also said Barrow’s heat island disappears when there are high winds, and that the town’s heat island probably results in an 8 percent reduction in fuel bills during winter.
As for the warmth generated by Barrow residents affecting the earlier snowmelt date, he said it was unlikely because the heat island is not as strong when the area’s snowpack is melting in the spring.
You can see Bethel’s changed microclimate here. Where is Y-K Alaska (Google map)
The area inside the ring of Bethel has been altered from the non-Bethel region. There are no regular roads or housing inside the ring. But certainly the road dust, sno-go traffic, surrounding development has affected this reflectivity of the ground.
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