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National Weather Service needs your help! Requests community observations to improve river break-up forecasts

Published: Apr. 27, 2021 at 4:05 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Spring has arrived in Alaska, bringing the inevitable breakup of ice across all bodies of water. Since spring of 2020, the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) citizen science project “Fresh Eyes on Ice” has partnered with the National Weather Service to collect river observations in the form of photos, videos and notes from people across Alaska.

Katie Spellman with the International arctic research center, and Karen Endres of the National weather service explained how citizen scientists across Alaska can gather valuable data this season.

“The photos are really important. We send them immediately to the National Weather Service so they can do their flood forecasting with them, but also they are a treasure for climate change research,” said Spellman.

This data is useful to scientists at UAF to better understand how Alaska’s bodies of ice change over time. Understanding what causes dangerous conditions such as overflow, and open water during winter months can make traveling over ice safer.

“All types of river information are very important for us because we only see electronic gauges and satellite imagery. This time of year we’re looking at river breakup - so how ice degrades, how thin the ice is, how thick the ice is, whether or not there’s water on it, all these things go into our breakup timing and being able to estimate times for when the river is going to break up at different points in the system,” said Endres.

Photos submitted to “Fresh Eyes on Ice” should have an attached time and location for them to serve as effective data points.

“Ice and snow are changing quickly and these photos are like taking a picture of your baby growing up really fast. You want to remember what it was like so that you can compare it to long term observations of change. Your baby grows fast, and the world is changing fast, so these photos preserve that snapshot in time for research in the future,” said Spellman.

Every single photo submitted - whether it’s a river, a lake, a pond, or a slough - is a valuable piece of data for long term ice research.

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