Warm Interior Weather Turns Attention To River Breakup

This week’s warm weather is turning attention to river break up.

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National Weather Service hydrologist Ed Plumb is tracking the factors that play into ice flowing out.

“Basically from Fairbanks eastward, it’s been kind of more typical winter, at least when you look at the ice thicknesses, and the snowpack on the ground,” Plumb said. “Versus further to our west and south. As you go into the western interior, the snowpack is well below normal, and this is the same case as you go south of the Alaska Range.”

Plumb says above normal snowpack in the Canadian Yukon will send a lot of water into the upper Yukon River, but a forecasted trend of warm days and cool nights should meter the influx, and promote a gradual break up. Plumb says ice thicknesses going into spring are, as usual, variable.

“Most of the lakes are running a little bit above normal thicknesses, where as some of the river sites are little bit below normal,” Plumb said.

That was the case on the Tanana River at Nenena at the beginning of March, but Nenana Ice Classic manager Cherrie Forness says this week’s ice measurement of 35 inches was closer to the norm for this time of year.

“I think it’s a pretty average year,” Forness said.

Break up timing has a lot to do with weather, and the thermometer pushed 50 degrees in recent days.

“We are having extremely warm temperatures, so we’re thinking that the ice will go out early,” Forness said.

Forness says the earliest the ice has ever gone out at Nenana is April 20th. Last year the tri-pod tipped on April 25th. Ice Classic tickets remain for sale through April 5th.