There’s a section of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline north of Fairbanks that is threatened by thawing permafrost, and steps are being taken to prevent or mitigate damage. Jack says the work is not visible from the Dalton. We’ll provide photos in the future if they become available, but for now here are some of the thermosyphons that are used to keep the permafrost cold under the pipeline, photos taken by us several years ago at about 26 Mile Dalton.
The below image is from Inside Climate News, Arthur Chapman via Flickr Creative Commons.
An amazing thing happened when I was on the road with Jack one time.
We woke up at what the truckers call 62 Mile, a good-sized pullout used by truckers and tourist buses and just anyone traveling the road. It was late September and the drive up north had been sunny and crispy cool. I could not have gotten luckier on a time to be on the Haul Road. Orange and yellow autumn colors abounded and even a pink birch tree showed up every so many miles. (Click to enlarge.)
No snow had fallen, but when we woke up that morning at 62 Mile the tundra outside was a winter wonderland. There were tourists milling about, gazing at the frosty grasses that surround the pull out.
And as you can see, there was a long line at the restroom, so I decided to take a walk out onto the tundra, and I’m so glad I did.
I discovered frost-covered fireweed, spider webs glinting in the morning light, and best of all, an absolutely stunning mist rainbow. I hadn’t known they even existed before, but now I have proof they do. As the frost was evaporating off the tundra, the water vapor in the air created a rainbow that shimmered in the sun’s light. As I stood watching, the sunlight slowly burned off the frost on the ground, leaving plants thawed on one side and still frozen on the other, and the glorious rainbow eventually faded away with the warmth of day.
A moment of astounding beauty. Luckily, I took a quick video and lots of photos, some of which may give an inkling of how amazing that morning was. If anyone ever tells you that the arctic tundra is a frozen wasteland with no redeeming qualities, here is proof that it is not true.
I just wanted to share with you this amazing photo Jack took in 2004 when wildfires were raging on the Dalton Highway. Trucks were still moving through but the air quality for drivers was terrible. Smoke combined with dusty dry conditions. This was a non-digital photo that I scanned and ran some enhancing on, to a surprisingly interesting effect.
The Alaska West truck has just driven out of heavy smoke and has a substantial dust trail (click photo to enlarge to proper size). Windy dry conditions exacerbated the fire intensity and level of destruction.
The 2004 Alaska fire season was the worst on record in terms of area burned by wildfires in the U.S. state of Alaska. Though fewer individual fires formed than in 1989 when almost 1,000 were recorded, more than 6,600,000 acres (27,000 km2) were burned by the approximately 700 fires that ignited. The largest of these fires was the Taylor Complex Fire, which encompassed 1,700,000 acres (6,900 km2) and was the largest fire in the United States from 1997 to 2007. The Boundary Fire, Wolf Creek Fire, Chatanika Fire, and a fire that enveloped the Trans-Alaska Pipeline also received notable attention from firefighting services and the media. All together 426 fires were started by humans and 215 were started by lightning.
You can see how at least one fire burned right over the Dalton. Even Jack thinks it was a little scary to drive through these fires. You really can’t see the road but for a few feet… he says the drivers call it “driving by Braille”. 🙂