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2019 April Monthly Report


Highlights

Due to the extremely high temperatures of March and early April, Alaskan rivers are breaking up earlier than ever.

The 103rd Nenana Ice Classic saw the earliest ice breakup ever recorded (Figure 7). The Nenana Ice Classic is a popular annual contest in which people purchase tickets and bet on the day and time that the ice under a tripod, placed on the ice of the Tanana River at Nenana, will break.

This year, the Tanana River broke up on April 14 at 12:21 am (Figure 7), allowing the large tripod to move downstream. This year’s break-up date, the earliest in 103 years of record, was 6 days earlier than the prior record for earliest breakup which was April 20 in both 1940 and 1998. The latest ice breakups on record are on May 20 in both 1964 and 2013 (Figure 7).

The Kuskokwim River at Bethel set a record as well. The ice breakup occurred on April 12, 8 days before the previous record of April 20 in 2016. This is by far the earliest breakup in more than 90 years of breakup data.

Thin river ice and early breakup is strongly affecting Alaska, sled-dog races have been cancelled, hunters cannot ride safely to spring camps, connections to rural villages are not safely accessible. Travelling on frozen rivers has become dangerous or impossible very early this spring, leading to casualties and huge expenses for remote communities. On April 15, three family members were killed after breaking through ice with their snowmobiles on their way to the small village of Noatak, northeast Alaska.

Early snowmelt, occurring throughout Alaska, increases the risk of an early wildfire season. Exposed grass, combined with high winds, make the possibility of wildfires much higher than usual for this time of the year, especially in Southcentral Alaska. Firefighting officials are bracing for an early start. The ‘Oregon Lakes Fire’ near Fort Greely in Interior Alaska was detected the end of the month; the active fire consumed over 3500 acres to date. The Division of Forestry issued caution to Alaskans burning during the legal burning period, April 1 through August 31. Please check out our ‘UAFSMOKE’ fire emissions prediction at http://smoke.alaska.edu/. The Alaska Climate Research Center maintains coupled UAFSMOKE ‘WRF-Chem’ numerical weather-fire emissions model runs. The 3-day emissions forecasts are updated daily.