14:58 Tue May 08, 2018
Make Way for Summer
Well, it’s that time of year again, spring! For weeks it was elusive, even as we closed out April as the 7th snowiest on record, with an average temperature 4.9 degrees below normal (9th coldest on record), we had all but written it off. But then, May arrived, and with it temperatures soared well above average, providing a significant melt-out of the snows of April (and of the rest of winter). Slowly, the sedge grasses worked their way free of most of the lingering ice patches, eagerly seeking to soak up some sunshine. This isn’t to say that the summit won’t see snow again, but with stronger sunshine this time of year and longer days, any snow that does accumulate will melt much faster than it would mid-January.
Figure 1. A snowy April.
A few sure signs of spring and the coming summer months have already been observed up here on the summit within the past week. First, it was the Cragway drift. This section of the Auto Road is typically where some of the most significant snow accumulation occurs over the winter months, and is therefore one of the most difficult sections of road to clear. Nevertheless, the auto road has been hard at work, and by shift change this past Wednesday, it was passable by van instead of snowcat!
Figure 2. Cragway drift.
The next indicator of the coming summer season was the ability to open the sub door. This (literal) submarine door is located at the base of our observation tower, and is frozen shut through the winter months, buried by rime and ice. A sure sign of spring is the ability to open this door, which provides us easy access to the outdoors from our subterranean living quarters.
Figure 3. Open subdoor.
What’s after that, you ask? Well, just this week we removed the second layer of storm windows from our office. In the winter, these storm windows protect our office from large, built up chunks of rime ice that are torn loose from the radio towers and hurled in our general direction by the wind. While it is possible to still have storms deposit rime and glaze any month of the year, we generally see lower winds in the summer months, meaning the likelihood of large chunks of ice being transported from the towers directly into our windows is much less. Therefore, we take the risk of removing the outer windows to be able to open the inner windows for some fresh air!
Soon, it will be June, and with that the fragile alpine flowers that fleetingly dot the landscape will begin to bloom. The sight transforms the view from one so often covered in snow to one of green sedge grasses waving in the breeze, speckled with bursts of white and purple and yellow from the various alpine flowers. It’s truly a sight, I encourage you to head up here and check it out sometime.
Figure 4. Alpine flowers.
Taylor Regan, Weather Observer