Kotzebue warming up quick: Kotzebue is warming faster than most places in the U.S., according to data from the National Weather Service compiled by Alaska Climate Facts. Of the 1,001 stations in the U.S. with year-to-date data, Sandberg, California, is the highest above normal (+6.6 degrees F) so far in 2014. In second place is the northwest Alaska town of Kotzebue, up 5.7 degrees since Jan. 1. Only a handful of stations in Alaska have been below normal so far this year, topped by Annette Island, which is 0.6 degrees cooler. Other towns of note: Anchorage +2.9 degrees; Barrow +2.7°F; Bethel +3.9°F, Fairbanks +2.3°F; Juneau: +0.5°F; McGrath: +3.2°F.
Caribou research conducted in a polar bear costume earns Ig Nobel Prize: An unusual effort to understand "cautiousness and fear-flight responses in wild reindeer under different environmental conditions" by a pair of scientists from Norway's University of Oslo was among the winners of this year's Ig Nobel prize, reports the site ScienceNordic. The scientists measured the responses of the wild ungulates -- known as caribou in Alaska -- by attempting to sneak up on them in dark clothing, as well as in white outfits intended to simulate polar bears. Changes in ice conditions around Svalbard have meant increasing between the bears and caribou, which also have a long history of interaction with humans, both as prey and herd animals. The improvised bear costumes did seem to frighten the animals more, the scientist found; they showed fear and fled sooner, and fled further, the pair found. The Ig Nobel awards -- a light-hearted send-up of the prestigious Nobel Prizes -- are "intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative -- and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology," host organization Improbable Research explains.
Learn more about proposed Big Lake, Houston boundary changes: Staff from the state Local Boundary Commission will hold a public informational meeting on twin petitions to incorporate Big Lake as a second-class city and annex land into the City of Houston at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Houston High School library. The two petitions are being considered together because they overlap at a slightly more than 1,500-acre parcel owned by Knikatnu Inc., a Wasilla-based Alaska Native village corporation. The state says the meeting will provide an opportunity for community members to learn about city incorporation and city annexation standards, to ask questions about the petitions and petition procedures, and for LBC staff to hear from local residents. Officials also remind the public that the meeting isn't a hearing. Any verbal public comment to be considered by the LBC as part of the public record should be presented at a public hearing scheduled for March. Written comments may be submitted to the staff at the meeting.
The Washington Post goes ferry-camping: The Washington Post's Travel section sends a writer to experience camping on Alaska State Marine Highway ferries or "the First Frontier for travelers who wish to explore the Last Frontier in the maritime version of the public bus," as the article has it. Much of what she discovers will be old hat for Alaskans, but it's gratifying to watch over her shoulder as she discovers the virtues of things like duct tape and Xtratufs.
Population levels off in Southeast: While Juneau may have surpassed Fairbanks as the the state's second largest city -- and while Southeast Alaska is breaking population records -- growth in long, rainy southeast sliver of the state has leveled off after several years of more robust growth, reports the Juneau Empire. The region grew by just 19 people in 2013, according to a report released by Rain Coast Data at a meeting of Southeast Conference members last week in Wrangell. While timber has shrunk as a driver of the economy -- and population -- in the region, the maritime sector (including the Coast Guard) has grown, even while fishing contributes record harvests, the report added.