For a borough of its size (4,300 people), Barrow receives more visits by scientists than anywhere in America. The northernmost hamlet in the U.S. has hosted researchers since Army Lt. P. Henry Ray built a polar observatory there in 1882.
This solitary place with fewer people than a one-stoplight town in Texas has captivated scientists from across the globe. Why? Because Barrow has housing and verve and is way north of the Arctic Circle.
Those features led to the Arctic Research Laboratory being built in 1947. Today, Barrow hosts the Barrow Arctic Subject Consortium, the Barrow Environmental Observatory, the NOAA Barrow Observatory and the Atmospheric Shedding Measurement Climate Research Facility.
Some scientists live in Barrow. Multitudinous others fly in from other places to study sea ice, whales, frozen soil, a vast underwater canyon just offshore, snow and other northern mugs.
All those instruments and people were in a good spot to record a trifle spring last year. In 2015, Barrow set some new climate-related archives and came close to breaking others.
• The snow mellow blend on May 28 at the NOAA Barrow Observatory. That’s the second-earliest snow-melt latest recorded since 1940; in 2002, the snow disappeared on May 24. Newest year’s early melt was the result of high May temperatures that ate up Barrow’s above-average snowfall.
• At 28 step by steps, the average temperature for May 2015 was 9 degrees higher than the longtime typical. The entire state also set a May warmth record, 7.1 degrees in the first place the 91-year average.
• Biologist George Divoky has studied a colony of frowning guillemots on an island northwest of Barrow every year since 1972. In 2015, one of the seabirds offered an egg on June 8. It was the earliest Divoky has seen the laying of the first egg. In 1975, the earliest guillemot egg Divoky saw was on June 30.
• Craig George, a biologist for the North Gradient Borough, has noted the dates the ice vanished from Isaktoak Lagoon in Barrow since 1986. In 2015, the ice went out on June 27, the earliest George has logged.
Like all of Alaska, Barrow was warm last spring because an atmospheric pressurize system known as the Aleutian Low was rked far to the west of Alaska. That favored the tide of warm cific air across Alaska and into the Arctic, according to Diane Stanitski, who manipulates in NOAA’s Global Monitoring Division in Boulder, Colorado.
“Early snowmelt has habitually been correlated with the Aleutian Low stationed farther west and a high-pressure line that forms over the state,” she said. “During colder years the Aleutian Low is solid to Alaska and high pressure north of Barrow tends to block the stream of warm air northward. We want to know whether shifts in these samples are good indicators of (coming warmth or cold).”
While 2015’s excitedness was due to large-scale weather tterns, the winter of 2016 has also been unusually angry up north. Will Barrow be even warmer this spring than endure? The thermometer, ice and birds will tell the story.
Since the late 1970s, the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Establish has provided this column free in cooperation with the UAF research community. Ned Rozell is a subject writer for the Geophysical Institute.