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> One Hour, Two Seasons, Weather Change from Fairbanks to Barrow
post Jun 13 2005, 08:13 AM
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June 12, 2005

One of the most interesting parts of my travel yesterday was the flight from Fairbanks to Barrow. It is approximately 500 miles between the two towns, and only a little over an hour apart by plane. Yet, the change in the weather was dramatic. In Fairbanks, it was somewhat cloudy with thunderstorms (typical summer weather) and 80 (F) degrees, but in Barrow, it was foggy and about 35 (F) degrees (typical winter weather). In a span of just 500 miles and about one hour flying time, we had gone, in effect, from one season to the opposite season. I took some photos along the way-- see if you can use them to come up with why the change is so dramatic:

Alaska Just North of Fairbanks
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It's hard to see in this picture, but you should notice the land is very green and all the ice has melted in this location....A big change from just over a month ago.

Keep the above picture in mind and compare it to the landscape and the vegetation (or lack of) shown in the pictures of the Brooks Range and areas north of there shown a little later. This comparison should help you determine the reason for the difference in the weather between Fairbanks and Barrow.

Cool Clouds
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Clouds always seem to look more interesting from an airplane, but I thought this shot was especially cool looking.

The above picture indicates there is a lot of convection (rising warm air and sinking cold air), which is usually caused by a clash of cold and warm air.

Flying Into a Cloud
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Flying Out of The cloud
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The two pictures above indicate again the instability of the air due to the big difference in warm and cold air.

Brooks Range
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This is a major mountain range between Fairbanks and Barrow

The Brooks Range forms a linear mountain range that extends almost all the way across northern Alaska, and it lies between Fairbanks and Barrow.

Clouds and Fog Along the Mountains
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Look closely at where the clouds and fog form along the Brooks Range. The direction to Barrow would be the direction towards the lower right corner of this picture

The picture above should help much in determining what could be responsible for the big difference in temperature and cloud cover between Fairbanks and Barrow.

Wider View of Mountains and Clouds
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The direction to Fairbanks would be toward the top of this picture (south). The direction to Barrow would be towards the bottom of this picture (north)

Again, the above picture should help much in coming up with an idea why Fairbanks is warmer than Barrow. Think of the effect mountains have on climate, and what the air is doing on either side of a mountain range.

Thaw Lakes on the North Slope of Alaska
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Thaw lakes are depressions formed by the thawing of the permafrost and the merging together of smaller pools of liquid water as the depression deepens. This shows how much the thaw lakes dominate the land on the north slope.

I'm always amazed at the different landforms and patterns I notice on the Earth's surface whenever I fly, but these thaw lakes were, by far, the most interesting and unusual I think I've ever seen. Remember to compare the landscape shown in these pictures with the first ones taken just north of Fairbanks.

More Thaw Lakes
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This picture shows how much the thaw-lakes and resulting drainage patterns dominate the landscape of the North Slope of Alaska

Sea Ice on the Arctic Ocean
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This was the Arctic Ocean just off the coast from Barrow, Alaska...Looks a little cold!

The ice definitely is evidence of a very cold ocean. It also indicates the Arctic could act as a source of cold air.

Now that you've seen some evidence and were given a few clues....Why was Fairbanks 80 degrees, and Barrow only 35 degrees on the same day?
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