Monday, December 5, 2011

Talkin’ ‘Bout the Weather

This is the highway right by us. In Alaska, it seems like every route is the scenic route. I saw a view almost identical to this one last week (although I was not the one to capture it; some other local did and it was the photo of the day on our local web news). wintry alaska

The sun rises at about 10:00am these days and sets just before 3:00pm. But being so far north, it takes the sun an hour to rise and set, so we have daylight from about 9:00am to 4:00pm. It’s really not too bad, and in less than three weeks, the days will start getting longer again. Although the dark mornings do kind of mess with my brain. Getting out of my cozy bed has never taken more will power! Saturday morning, I heard Hazel wake up and I peeked my eyes open; it felt like it was really early, maybe 5 or 6. I thought, “maybe if I change her diaper and give her a bottle, she’ll go back to sleep.” Then I looked at the clock. It was 8:52! Nah, I don’t think I’ll try to get Hazel to go back to sleep—she’d been in bed over 13 hours! Wow, nice weekend sleep-in for me! Thank you, Hazel, for also being affected by the darkness!

In the last 2 weeks, we’ve had a day where we set a new record for the coldest that day has ever been and now yesterday, a record for the warmest December 4th has ever been. I think meteorology is really interesting—in Junior High, I wanted to be a weather woman when I grew up. Instead, I settled for taking one Meteorology class in college when I needed a brain break from all of the humanities classes required for my major. So I think it’s kind of cool to look at what the actual temps were for the previous day and to see that the record high was set in 2011.

Sunday morning, we heard some really fierce winds when we woke up. The data says the gusts were up to 72 mph! So when I saw that the temp was 50 degrees in the morning before the sun rose, I remembered the Chinook wind phenomenon I read about on Wikipedia back in March when we were scoping out Delta Junction. “There are usually several days in the winter when the temperature is in the range of -40° (C or F) when a wind (known as a Chinook wind) begins to blow. A few minutes later, the temperature climbs to above +32 °F. When the wind stops, the temperature returns to its colder value.” With that in mind, it was pretty interesting to look over the hourly data and see that when the winds were gusting from the south yesterday morning, it was in the 40s and 50s. Around noon the direction and intensity of the wind started to change, to go back to normal, and the temperature started to drop again—10 degrees in one hour.

This interesting phenomenon made for some nasty roads. Snow packed roads have great traction when the temps are near zero and colder. But when the temps climb to the freezing point and above, that packed snow starts to melt, and it gets pretty slippery. The Stake President asked all the units to inform members of the icy, dangerous road conditions and to advise people not to come in to church if they felt the roads were too bad. So church wasn’t cancelled, but attendance was officially optional! It was a bit tricky just to drive out of our garage because the snow had melted off of our roof and plopped in a big hill around our house. But the BEAST made it without having to shovel through the hill. We determined that the roads were passable, with Aaron’s experience and the Beast’s beastliness, as well as a good measure of caution. On our way to church, it was crazy to see how the beautiful white winter wonderland I’d seen the night before driving home at 9pm was now interrupted by ugly brown patches of grass and dirty puddles. The roads were slippery, but in most places, they were more wet than icy. The worst part of the whole drive was the church parking lot, which was just a thick sheet of wet ice. Elodie took 2 steps on her own, slipped, and had to endure the trauma of a wet dress. During Church, the temps dropped again and it started to drizzle, then sleet, and then snow. A lot. Throughout the night, it accumulated to 5 or 6 inches. The beautiful winter wonderland is back; those brown patches and puddles didn’t even last a day! As for the roads, underneath the pristine blanket of snow, that wet sheen and puddles refroze into sheets of ice, making the roads even more treacherous this morning. In all of the weather talk we engaged in yesterday, none of the locals seemed to think that a balmy 50 degree day was a good thing. Their experience told them it meant nastier roads the rest of the winter. But it was kind of nice to go outside without bundling to the hilt! Ah, the adventure of the Chinook!


Sarah said...

Wow, that's interesting about the southerly wind phenomenon. I would welcome that too, if I didn't know any better! And that is a really beautiful picture! Glad the long nights have some benefits, like children sleeping in!

jessica said...

Rarely is reading about the weather this interesting! Wow!