Saturday, January 26, 2013

Beautiful light in the valley filled with frigid air

The light is always stunning when the skies are clear blue. However, with temperatures in the single digits-both positive and negative, the air can be quite biting. Most runs are groomed at Alyeska, but off trail with little fresh snow, the surface is icy.

I don't think temperatures were above 10° today and they may be slightly negative under another gorgeous moon. Expect the same on Monday before snow returns Tuesday or Wednesday. The roads are fairly clear in Girdwood, however parking lots and driveways remain icy. Cleats are highly recommended. Here's the headwall with a little alpenglow coming on....

Friday, January 25, 2013

Bright full moon lights up Glacier Valley

Feels like we are done with spring-fall and now into winter for a few days in Girdwood. It snowed about 2 inches this morning as the wind blew and temperature fell. It was 23 most of the day, dropping to 18° by nightfall. I expect with the sky so clear we could see this beautiful full moon tonight, the temperatures will drop even lower. I am sure you get the imagery, the moon is atop the ski runs at Alyeska so it looks like the mountain is a christmas tree!

It was so windy this morning as the temperature was falling, the icicles that were freezing up are all sideways. Its hilarious! The part that is not so hilarious, the ground that became exposed this week with all the snow melt only received two inches of new snow as a blanket. Not nearly enough to protect delicate roots if you have new trees. This deep cold is forecasted to last through Wednesday when we should receive some more snow.

As for now, be careful walking around in Glacier Valley. Just under the thin layer of snow is ice, not only smooth in parking lots, but uneven in walkways and off to the sides of driveways. Don't twist an ankle! Its like walking on rocks.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Its the third spring in Glacier Valley this season!

We are well into our third spring here in Glacier City this week. The Girdwood Board of Supervisors have been told that the roads crew has used more gravel on the roads so far this season than all of last winter. It is raining today and it has been 38° all day. There were small patches of blue sky today, but no full clearing and no real wind, a few slight breezes. Our driveway is an ice rink, but the main Alyeska Highway is clear of all ice and snow. There has been snow above 100 ft elevation, so the upper mountain at Alyeska has been nice, however, it is sticky at the base. Great conditions for beginners to learn!

I’d like to share a house plant tip for those keeping their lives green indoors. Here is a beautiful example of a narrow-leaved variety of Sansevieria in bloom. How many times are we given a gift of the broad leaf Sansevieria trifasciata (mother-in-law’s tongue) and not ever even known that it blooms? Sansevieria make great house plants, they require little water and moderate light most of the year.  Additionally, Sansevieria help clean air inside a dwelling (as do most plants).

This family of plants requires little water because its leaves are coated with a cuticle. This “waxy” covering keeps the plant from losing moisture too quickly. These plants are from the tropics and hotter environments where they may go for long periods of time without rain. Consequently, they have adapted so well in Australia they are now considered a noxious weed. 

Moderate light must be qualified here since we have low light in the winter. Most of our house plants need to be moved close to a window in the winter, the closer the better and a southern exposure window is best. Sansevieria pictured here was in a northern exposure window but in a building with lights on over 12 hours per day. Look at this gorgeous bloom, obviously it is happy with its location. The temperature of the building also helped, it stays warmer than the average home in this location. 

A nice bonus of this plant is it is easy to divide and share. The off-shoots can be rooted in water then planted. Or, the plant can be divided when transplanting into larger pots or when replacing the potting soil. A great beginning house plant to try for yourself!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Monday, January 21, 2013

No snow overnight makes for slushy roads

My little consumer model weather station thinks it is going to snow in Girdwood today. Reading off the local conditions, 33°, 98% humidity, and steady air pressure. Yet the center of that low pressure is still on top of Prince William sound, and NOAA predicts the temperature to rise. In fact, the forecast is for it to be even warmer tomorrow with a continued mix of rain and snow. Even though we are lucky to have a holiday today, its going to be messy moving around!

Flat light, haze hanging down, blah. I may have been wrong when I thought not many people used wood burning fireplaces here. Today I can smell wood smoke in the air. Now that there has been several days of no wind and a cloud blanket, the atmosphere is pretty stagnant. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Flat white and very still, murky air

I noticed as I walked home after work, the sir was a little stinky. As I came around a corner onto Alyeska Highway, I saw this layer of haze down over the main part of town, shown above. Normally that would be fog rising from the creek with cold air falling from the valley above up stream. However, today there was a dirty color to the fog, looking more like smog, and this is not Fairbanks! There are not that many wood burning fireplaces here. I thought at first it could be an inversion layer, but it is not warmer at the tops of the mountains than below. That is what a standard inversion is the result of, warmer air aloft trapping the cold air below which keeps the particles from rising and dispersing in the atmosphere. It must today be a phenomenon of the incredibly still air with clouds above not moving allowing the soot to be trapped below, where we can see and smell it! There is a low pressure system directly over Prince William Sound. The isobars are far apart over us confirming my observation of lack of air movement. There is another low coming from the southwest, maybe it will move this boring system away soon.

What a murky day it turned out to be in Girdwood. That winter storm that was supposed to be dumping snow all night never materialized here. At about 9am there was wet snow showers with more substantial snow holding together on the mountain. It precipitated off and on until late afternoon, mostly a wet variety. It was, after all, 34° in most of Glacier Valley. I understand from the skiers that the snow was sticky. That was the case in Moose Meadows last night as well for cross-country skiing. 

This was the view of Max’s Mountain today. After the sloppy snow stopped falling, the conditions where flat white light. Not super wonderful, but not wet either!