Quantcast

It's So Warm in Alaska Snow Has to Be Brought in by Train for Iditarod

Climate

This winter has been shockingly warm in the Arctic, producing one of the mildest winters on record for Alaska.

According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, Alaska’s temperatures this winter have averaged about 10 degrees above normal, ranking third warmest since at least 1925. And snowfall has been 10 percent of normal in central, interior and southeast Alaska.

It's the second year in a row that Alaska has seen record warmth, with the winter of 2014-2015 clocking temperatures 4 to 10 degrees above normal.

"This year’s strong El Nino event, and the associated warmth of the Pacific Ocean, is likely partly to blame, along with the cyclical Pacific Decadal Oscillation—which is in its warm phase," explained The Washington Post. "The warmth is also occurring against a backdrop of record low Arctic sea ice and a long-term trend towards higher temperatures, due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere."

For the second month in a row, Arctic sea ice was at a record low level for its average extent. And Alaska has already seen its second wildfire of the year, putting the state's wildfire season weeks earlier than normal and sparking fears of yet another brutal summer.

“For me, I always would think an early season was when we started getting [fires] in mid-April,” Norm McDonald, a state fire management officer, told Alaska Dispatch News. “And then over the last few years that’s changed to mid-March and now the end of February.”

All this is wreaking havoc on Alaska's wintertime activities, such as the famed Iditarod, which begins this Saturday. For the second year in a row, snow has to be brought into Anchorage for the ceremonial start of the race. Last year, it was trucked in. This year, it has to be brought by rail.

Some 300 cubic yards (seven railcars' worth) of snow is being transported by train from Fairbanks, an Alaska Railroad spokesperson told Alaska Dispatch News. Iditarod officials also announced that they will shorten the ceremonial start from 11 miles to three due to the lack of snow.

Last year, officials had to reroute the Iditarod twice because of minimal snow coverage on certain parts of the trail. The year before that, low snow produced dangerous trail conditions that resulted in injuries that knocked some mushers out of the race.

The imported snow will also be used for a lesser known event, the Running of the Reindeer, in which people race reindeer through the streets of Anchorage.

Snow had to be trucked in for the Iditarod and the Running of the Reindeer, in which people race reindeer through the streets of Anchorage. Photo credit: Fur Rondy

Here's footage of an "antler cam" strapped onto one of the participating reindeers:

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

February Shatters Global Temperature Records, Satellite Data Show

Arctic on Thin Ice as Extreme Heat Takes a Toll

Climate Change Could Kill Half a Million Annually by 2050

World’s Carbon Budget Is Only Half as Big as Thought

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

This study found evidence of illegal hammerhead fins in 46 out of 46 sampling events in Hong Kong. NOAA / Teachers at Sea Program

By Jason Bittel

Authorities in Hong Kong intercepted some questionable cargo three years ago — a rather large shipment of shark fins that had originated in Panama. Shark fins are a hot commodity among some Asian communities for their use in soup, and most species are legally consumed in Hong Kong, but certain species are banned from international trade due to their extinction risk. And wouldn't you know it: this confiscated shipment contained nearly a ton of illegal hammerhead fins.

Read More Show Less
A video shows a woman rescuing a koala from Australia's wildfires. VOA News / YouTube screenshot

More than 350 koalas may have died in the wildfires raging near the Australian town of Port Macquarie in New South Wales, but one got a chance at survival after a woman risked her life to carry him to safety.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Heat waves emanate from the exhaust pipe of a city transit bus as it passes an American flag hung on the Los Angeles County Hall of Justice on April 25, 2013. David McNew / Getty Images

Air pollution rules aren't doing enough to protect Americans, finds a major new study that examined the cause of death for 4.5 million veterans, as The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less
Coldplay playing at Stade de France in Paris in July 2017. Raph_PH / Wikipedia / CC BY 2.0

Coldplay is releasing a new album on Friday, but the release will not be followed by a world tour.

Read More Show Less
Ash dieback is seen infecting a European ash (Fraxinus excelsior) in Bottomcraig, Scotland, UK on Aug. 10, 2016. nz_willowherb / Flickr

Scientists have discovered a genetic basis to resistance against ash tree dieback, a devastating fungal infection that is predicted to kill over half of the ash trees in the region, and it could open up new possibilities to save the species.

Read More Show Less