An office with a view on Denali
My office at the university has a south view on the Alaska Range. It’s a beautiful view (see photo below). However, I am in modeling, performing numerical simulations on weather and air quality. Thus, I work most of the time on the computer while at work when I’m not mentoring my students or in class. My curtains are always closed ( 🙁 ) because of the light pollution. When they are open, I can’t see what’s on my screen. What a waste of a view! Indeed, it is.
Last week, we had a dry cold snap. This means dry air, cold heavy and you hear noises from far away. When the train passes – the tracks are a mile away from our house – it sounds as if they drive thru our living room! The noise of the airplanes starting and landing on Fairbanks International Airport seems like you are standing on the taxiway of the airport. The airport is on the other side of the river and the landing stripe for small aircrafts flying to rural villages is about 2 miles away bird view or so. When the propeller airplanes from and to Anchorage arrived, it sounded like an old WWII documentary film of bombers approaching Cologne, Leipzig, Dresden, you name it. Now the route is flown again by small city jets.
On the first of these days of about -20F (-28.9oC) with barely no wind at the surface and low humidity, the air is clear. You can see so far. The Alaska Range seems to be so near that you could touch it. In other words, like it is around the corner. I love the first crisp cold days of November here in Alaska. It’s so different from November in Germany where humidity was high, the sky was gray, the winds were nasty, and the high humidity was creepy, even though temperatures were just around or even slightly above the freezing point. November in Germany made me depressed. Everything was gray. Every floral or gardening store displayed cemetery grave decoration. I hated November ever since I learned the months in 1st grade.
The mountains and what they mean for Interior Alaska
This November is so different from the Novembers I experienced before here in Alaska. Typically, the first cold snap of winter hits in November. Actually, it’s not something that moves into the Interior like the Polar Vortex hits the northern mid or eastern US. When air moves into the Interior from the North, it is relatively warm because it comes with a Chinook from the Brooks Range. When in late fall/early winter, air moves in from the West, i.e. the Bering Sea, it is moist and windy and comes with a lot of snow. In the Interior you fear wind more than 40 below zero. This weather situation often leads to long outages. When in winter, air moves in from the South, it’s warm and moist and comes with a Chinook from the Alaska Range. The Interior produces cold air itself when the Canadian High is strong and extends thru the Interior.
Cold dry days allow to see Denali
Under these condition, we get below -20F (-28.9oC) temperature with low humidity in the first days. These are the days with great visibility. On these days, you cannot only watch the aurora at night (if there is one), but I can see Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley) from the office. Well, since I always have my curtains closed, I can’t see Denali from my desk. However, I saw Denali, when I went to the restrooms. When I came back, I took my iPad and went to the fifth floor to take a photo of Denali. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me. I would have used the tele-objective to capture the snow that was blown of the top of Denali that day. Well, winds were calm at the surface, but in the troposphere (first 10 km, i.e. 6.2 miles or so above sea surface), wind speed increases with height. Nevertheless, I can share a photo of Denali as seen from the Alaska’s first university, which is 157 miles (252.7 km) bird-view away from Fairbanks. How cool is that? Great pristine air!
Focus Alaska is a series here on High Latitude Style about things unique to life in Alaska.
Fall business casual outfit of the day
Since it was cold outside, I went for layering a jean jacket over a cashmere sweater over a long sleeve Tee (non-visible on purpose). Also I am wearing two pair of tights for extra insulation. I kept the look in classic black, white and blue. Since the skirt has some hints of tan color, I repeated the hue with a tan collar that I pinned to the jacket with safety pins. The collar was a thrift find at a store in town more than 10 years ago. The outfit photos were taken in front of a historic gasoline pump at a local restaurant. The restaurant is on the National List of Historic Places, a Must-see when you visit Fairbanks.
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Photos of me: G. Kramm
Photos of Denali: N. Mölders
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