It is about this time in the year when the birds prepare to fly south. The sand-hill cranes fly formations and feed on the grains of Creamer’s Field or the fields of the University Alaska Fairbanks agricultural experimental farm. They are joined by various kinds of ducks and geese. Once in a while, you see a trumpeter swan. Like the real birds, the snow birds are also leaving about this time. They fly down to their Arizona, Florida, New Mexico, Colorado, California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaiian or Mexico homes.
Typically, summers in Alaska are gorgeous. In May, you see a lot of yellow, light blue and pink from various wildflowers. In July, the landscape turns pink from fireweed. By mid-August you typically see the the first yellow leaves. There is sunshine 24/7 starting mid May and all June, just interrupted once in a while by a thunderstorm. However, these thunderstorms lead to lightening and often ignite wildfires as the fuel is dry. Thus, June and July often smell like wood burning due to the forest fires. Starting around the Golden Days or so the rain season sets on. August is the month that brings the most rain of all month.
This summer was quite different.The summer smelled like fall, the smell of mold, spores and mushrooms was in the air. It was so wet in the Interior that we were on flood warning for large part of the summer.
There are two rivers that can flood the College area. One is the rainfed Chena River. It flows thru Fairbanks and College. After the big 1967 flood, which flooded large areas of Fairbanks and College, a dam with a flooding area was build upstream of Fairbanks for flood protection.
The other river is the glacier-fed Tanana River. This river has its highest water when it is warmest. Moreover, its water table is slightly higher than the one of the Chena. This means that when the Tanana has high water it may push some of its water into the Chena River, or hinder the draining of the Chena substantially so that the Chen gets high water due to the Tanana. Of course, this process happens where the Chena flows into the Tanana, i.e. downstream of the dam.
Thus, people always have to watch both rivers when they live downstream of the dam.Besides these two rivers there are a lot of sloughs flowing thru Fairbanks.These of course can lead to some local flooding as well. In 2008, the slough close by got so strong that it washed out a road in our neighborhood. As a consequence, a couple of families could only leave their subdivision by boat.
Despite of all the rain this summer, we were lucky as we never got higher than flood watch. However, the bad thing about a rainy summer in Interior Alaska is that people got too few sunshine and hence built too few vitamin D. This means people will be grumpy in winter and many people may suffer from seasonal depression disease (SAD) later in winter.
How was your summer? Did you have a lot of sunshine?
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Photos: G. Kramm (2016)
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