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Alaskans alarmed at Russian specter of 'global cooling'

Craig Medred
For Alaskans hoping for spring, news keeps getting worse. Snowfall. Thick ice coating rivers. Chilly temps that struggle to crack freezing. Maybe the Russians are right, and the dreaded global cooling has arrived. Loren Holmes photo

Snow fell on the Anchorage Hillside again Thursday. The National Weather Service was forecasting up to an inch by the end of the day. And for Alaskans wishing for spring, the news just kept getting worse.

"May arrived and most of Alaska's rivers are still locked in ice," the dastardly federal agency reported on its Facebook page. "NWS staff and river observers collect ice thickness data around the first day of each month during the winter. However, except on the North Slope and northwest Alaska, ice is typically gone or unsafe for measurements by the start of May.

"Not so this remarkably backwards spring. Ice thickness and snow on the ice at nearly all measured locations in the central Interior was THICKER than at the start of April. "

Yes, that's right. At a time when Alaska should be starting into breakup there isn't even a sign of it.

The ice on the Porcupine River, which joins the Yukon River about 145 miles northeast of the Interior city of Fairbanks, still has ice more than 6-feet thick. It's the state's shiver leader, but then there's a lot of ice everywhere.

The Kuskokwim River at Bethel in comparatively balmy Southwest Alaska still has more than three feet of ice. Nobody will be traveling that waterway by boat anytime soon.

The state has so much May snow and ice that even some dog mushers are complaining.

'May 2 and with several feet of snow still on the ground," Helen Lundberg of Willow lamented on her Facebook page. " I do not like the forecast -- snow and "much cooler" for tomorrow -- feels like this winter refuses to give up on us."

Forecast for the Willow area? Snow and rain into the weekend when it's supposed to transition to just snow with temperatures down to 15 degrees at night.

Nobody is going to be planting a garden anytime soon, and Russian scientists -- if you weren't already depressed enough -- are warning Alaskans to prepare for more.

The Russians have again raised the specter of global cooling that sort of makes global warming "cool" by comparison. The Russians have said this before, largely to be dismissed as global-warming skeptics, but Alaska's non-spring coupled with cold weather across the northern tier states Outside has provided new leverage.

"We could be in for a cooling period that lasts 200-250 years," Yuri Nagovitsyn of the Pulkovo Observatory told The Voice of Russia. Pulkovo, which dates back to 1839, is just outside of Petersburg and is the principal astronomical observatory of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

But not to worry. "Even though pessimists say global cooling will hamper exploration of the Arctic, experts say it won’t," the Voice of Russia reported. "Climate change and the resulting increase in the thickness of the Arctic ice cover pose no obstacles to the extraction of oil and gas on the Arctic shelf. As oil and gas reserves of the Arctic sea shelf are estimated to be billions of tons, countries are demonstrating more interest in the development of the Arctic."

Ice helped stall the exploratory efforts of Shell Oil in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska last summer, but Exxon Mobil now holds leases just across the border in Russia, and that company has a history of being able to produce.

Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com