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Green Blue Green Line

Winter - Land of Snow and Ice

Green Blue Green Line

Winter starts officially when the first snow falls and doesn't melt away. It can be as early as the first week in September, as we found out a couple years ago. We had a large snowstorm dump several feet of heavy, wet snow that loaded the trees down. The trees still had green leaves! Some of the trees broke, but the majority just bent over with the weight. Trees fell on power lines, shorting them out and causing a massive power outage. Some areas a few miles out of town were without electricity for a week! Most of the trees recovered just fine when the snow melted the following April, but you can still see trees bent over in places. Winter can be as long as September to May!

Our House Pic

(photo 1997 Barbara Logan)
Our home in Fairbanks, Alaska, Winter 1996-1997

When it is really cold, usually about -30 degrees Fahrenheit, we get a condition known as "ice fog". Ice fog is a fog of tiny spherical ice crystals formed when air just above the ground becomes so cold it can no longer retain water vapor. Surface heat radiates into space, forming a warm-air cap that contains cold air at low elevations. It is most common when clear skies create an air inversion. These are also our "poor-air quality" days, as man-made pollutants are also trapped at low levels by the air inversion.

Ice Fog at 40 below Pic

(photo 1999 Barbara Logan)
Ice Fog at 40 Below, December 1999
(That lumpy shape on the left between the fence post
and shed is a moose, hard to see in the ice fog)

They say we have "dry" cold here. The cold does not "feel" as cold as it does in places where the humidity is higher. Our snow is usually very dry, low-humidity, with a sand like texture, not wet and fluffy. This is NOT good for making snowmen. When it blows down the road it looks like sand and will form drifts that look just like sand dunes. We do occasionally get wet snow though... and then snowmen spring up everywhere. (SMILE)

One thing to watch out for though is the chill factor. Even walking in dry cold air can cause enough of a "chill" to cause frostnip, frostbite and hypothermia. Lack of adequate clothing can be dangerous or even fatal when spending any time outdoors in the cold of weather. It is always wise to dress appropriate for the temperature.

Raven Closeup Pic

(photo 2002 Barbara Logan)
Raven, close up, January 18, 2002

More common in winter than other times of the year, ravens are everywhere! They have a roosting area in the forest somewhere north of Fairbanks where large numbers flock at night, but in the daytime they stake out their "claims" - commonly around dumpsters and fast food businesses, but also on street lights and telephone poles around town. Woe to the person who sets out plastic trash bags that aren't in cans or covered with something - the ravens descend on them and proceed to rip the bags apart in search of food. It can be quite a mess! I have seen a dozen or more ravens greedily fighting over tidbits found in trash bags. Ravens are smart and will come back to a source of food. One raven pestered our neighbor's dog until he finally gave up; he watched from his dog house as the raven came frequently last winter to eat from his food dish!

This raven hopped up on my car as I sat in a parking lot. They "hang out," waiting for someone with trash bags in the back of a pickup truck, or for someone to drop a french fry. (SMILE) It watched me through the window for a couple of minutes and even ate a couple of dry choke cherries near the windshield wipers. Then it hopped onto the rear view mirror to have a look inside my open window! It was quite interesting and I was pleased to get this photo.

Chena River Pic

(photo 1997 Barbara Logan)
Snow covered beaver lodge a few blocks from our home,
on the north bank of the Chena River, January 1997.
Note: Most of the Chena River is frozen in the winter, but
this part is near the power plant and stays open most of the winter.

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This page was last updated 25 January 2004 Barbara Logan
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