Friday, November 30, 2012

Frost continues to build

Twelve days of frost have created a crunchy layer of ice crystals to walk on. This month the crystals are not as large as the crystal plates we saw in Girdwood in October. I will be investigating that more later. Above is our familiar view of blue sky, mountain tops, and frosted trees. 

The frost continues to build on the branches. Its 7° outside!

We drove into Anchorage today and were still able to observe the effects of the fog on the flora. The fog itself has vanished as seen in the clear images of Penguin Ridge. It did, however, leave its mark behind as an icy coating on the trees. Though the temperature differential has dropped between sea level and the mountain top, we can see that it is still warmer up there. 

Still no snow in the forecast. We continue to be under the spell of the high pressure. There are two lows to the east and southeast in range of the panhandle, however, they do not have much moisture associated with them. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The same clear skies are ok, without wind

It may be the same view outside, and I am glad. With the news of high winds in the Mat-Su Valley and unfortunate fires, I am glad to realize Glacier Valley has not suffered the occurrence of wind it could have for such extreme weather. Above is looking across Glacier Valley from the Daylodge at the base of Max’s Mountain. 

Driving into Anchorage this week and last, I have noticed an inversion. That has been confirmed by the temperature readings at the top of Mount Alyeska and nearby mountains reading in the 30’s when down at sea level it is reading 7°. It is also evidenced by my recent photos of the frost covered trees at sea level and in the same photo seeing foliage in the mid and top of the mountain bare. At 11 days now of frost, and it is still the same. 

About those winds, with such cold air down low, I am surprised it did not “fall” into the valley on a downslope wind when all the warm air drafted up. Perhaps it happened so slow. The valley must be experiencing gap winds, cold air drifting down from the arctic or the interior and being squeezed through the Talkeetna and the Chugach Mountains. Here is a great article detailing gap winds as they are not a phenomenon common elsewhere. This article was written with particular interest for pilots. 

This is the view turning around 360° from the above photo, looking up to the headwall with Max’s just off the right side. Look at all that frost and snow still on the trees! (ok, some of it is man-made from the ski business). 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

HIgh pressure keeping blue skies in sight

The massive high pressure system of Alaska has brought us day 10 of frost and clear skies. Be mindful I said clear skies–meaning high altitude–because we now apparently are under an inversion. The weather cams from the CNFAIC website links are showing dazzling images from the mountain tops in the Chugach. However, in spots down low, we are under a layer of fog. The temperatures are up to 30° warmer on the mountain tops than at sea level. The image above is looking toward Penguin Ridge, you can see how the mountain weather cams could be spectacular.

This fog has made for some interesting images and weird environmental sensations in Girdwood and along the Turnagain Arm. Though the top photo gives no indication of fog, the one just above is a view down Alyeska Highway toward the Seward Highway. Without fog, the normal view would be the water and a waterfall or snow slide on the opposite side of the Arm down Mount Alpenglow. As is seen here today, that is not the case. 

After turning onto the Seward Highway, by Toadstool Lane (the turn off for the rail road), the fog was so thick there was no visibility. Usually the fog is a bit higher and we are able to see the ground, today the fog was heavy in spots sitting on the ground. The photo above demonstrates it was so thick, the camera could hardly focus on the marsh plants covered in frost. Spooky! 

Although the fog was so thick you could not see 10 yards ahead, it was thin in altitude. In this photo, look at the upper right and the mountain top is visible obviously receiving sunlight. Interesting. The trees are coated with frost and in the fog they have a grey cast to them, not bright white so I know it is not snow. 

Further along, near Bird, the fog layers split apart and moved around presenting a dreamy image of the Seward Highway. And again, notice the fog is not deep vertically. Here is a link to a NOAA page that defines different types of fog. there are some great photos too (the top of the page reads Jackson, KS but the fog descriptions are general).

No snow in the forecast through this Sunday....I don’t see how any insects could winter over this year with such a thin layer of snow, the ground cannot be that warm for them to hide in leaf litter?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fog only has one benefit

Fog makes the difference in a temperature of 12° as opposed to 7°.  Girdwood is totally socked in this morning. I live literally one block from Max’s Mountain and it is in no way visible (below view). The above view is looking down Alyeska Highway from the T toward town.

It is still 12° outside, and with the fog my little weather station thinks its going to snow. Poor thing can’t see the web cam from the top of Mt. Alyeska shows clear sunny skies with a heavy wool blanket laying on the valley of Girdwood. Looking toward town, still no view.

The fog is icy this morning, like little stinging nettles on your face. The frost still building on the branches like spay on flocking. Last night I looked for the aurora, did it show up in Anchorage? Looks like it is overhead right now. 

Still haven’t seen my magpies this morning, however there are three ravens fighting over some french fries outside. Hmm, wonder where they got those. 

I am enjoying a hot bowl of cream of barley cereal. A couple of weeks ago at the Farmer’s Market in the Mall at Sears, I picked up a bag. It is grown in Alaska at Delta Junction by the Alaska Flour Company. Yea for determined farmers! Barley is so amazingly delicious, full of fiber and iron, and filling. Add some molasses, or local honey or birch syrup for extra goodness. I add pecans or walnuts depending on my taste that day. If you like add any type of cream: heavy, milk, soy, it all adds to the goodness of a well rounded breakfast. The Alaska flour company is attempting to add wheat to the harvest once they get the timing right with the weather. Don’t see why it couldn’t be done if Montana can do it. Some of the great benefits of producing grains in Alaska are the lack of predatory insects, and the reduced need to ship grains up here. I am all for that are you? If so, please head out to the Wednesday market and pick up your bag of barley flour or cream of barley cereal, its hearty and delicious.

Monday, November 26, 2012

An ice skating winter?

Day 8 of frost and today its thick. The ice fog last night really put a layer on everything. It makes me really happy when it clears out because we get this gorgeous alpenglow in the morning! Here you can see it on Penguin Peak and Raggedtop. Last night’s glow under the moon at dusk was really lovely in Anchorage as well.  

Our weather forecast is still lacking in snow. This got me wondering what the big picture is so I went to digging around on NOAA’s website. Here you can see as of November 26th, the jet stream is not in our favor. NOAA also creates a three month climate prediction seen here. I learned that we are and will be experiencing below average temperatures (no kidding!) Sadly their projection is average to below precipitation. I will choose to look at it this way, sounds like this winter will be great for ice skating! And speaking of, yesterday there were several folks enjoying Potter’s Marsh with their skates on! If you are venturing out to Alyeska Resort, they too are preparing the pond for skating this year. 

Here is Max’s with its sunny halo. Now, if the Aurora would just work with all these cloud free nights.....

Update at 3 p.m.

This afternoon in pursuit of the frost build up on trees near the Seward Highway, this scene presented itself as much more interesting. Looking down Toadstool Dr toward the Arm, these layers of clouds are super fine.

Turning toward the north to see if Penguin is visible, I get a mixed answer. Yes there is a kiss of sunlight on its shoulder, but look at the fog bank hugging it. Temperature here is 12°.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Get yer Vitamin D this winter!

Day 7 of frost, still small crystals but forming layers on all the branches. So far I would say we have not had a shortage of sunlight. It was 10° at 9 a.m., so biting. Here we have a beautiful view of Penguin and Raggedtop on the opposite side of the valley. 

The cold and frost did not stop a small group of skiers and riders from hitting the slopes. I should say slope as most of the mountain is closed due to low levels of snow. It has been recommended that only experts take the new Ted’s Express due to icy conditions. Here is Max’s with some little fluffy clouds that just moments before were brilliant pink. The trees in the foreground are covered more with frost than snow.

The icy conditions also apply for walking, keep your ice grips on unless, like me, you walk on the edges of the path. The edges are extra crunchy right now because of the layers of frost building up. But that makes for good foot grip especially with deep tread shoes. 

In my little section of Girdwood, I have been entertained by a pair of magpies, a pair of Steller’s Jays and a few chickadees. However, it has been so cold I have not seen them in a couple of days. My thought is they have moved closer to the mouth of the valley where there is more sunshine. Up here at the T, Max’s will block the sun more and more until late December when I may not see the sun until well after 1 p.m. Last year I lived in a cabin along Alyeska Hiway below Crow Creek Road. We fed a pair of Steller’s Jays all winter. The birds were so used to us giving them sunflower seeds, they would come knock on the window if we were late! 

Here is a photo of Max’s at 11 p.m. tonight. The glow at the bottom is from the mountain lights being on during snow making. We were in Anchorage today and when we returned, the fog was so thick entering Girdwood we could not see the mountain lights from the Seward. It was thick when we left at 3 p.m. coating the trees in a grey shroud. At night, though, there was ice fog creating crystal prisms up and down from the streetlights, it was 12°. The trees at the Seward Highway where you enter Girdwood must have an inch of frost on them. However, once we got to the T, the mountain was clear and the stars were visible. Bizarre little micro climate here.