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Nenana Ice Classic 2015

Filed under: — gavin @ 25 April 2015

Unsurprisingly to anyone looking at the exceptionally warm winter on the West Coast of North America, the Nenana Ice Classic had another near-record early breakup on Friday, netting some lucky winner(s) around $300,000 in prizes.

As I’ve discussed previously (last year and an update), the Ice Classic is a lottery that has been run every year since 1917, based on the time and date of the break up of the ice on the NenanaTanana river, some 50 miles from Fairbanks, AK. There has been a historically good correlation with seasonal temperatures in the region, and the long term trend (earlier break-up by about 6.6 days/century) is in line with expectations of overall warming in the region.

2015 was the fourth earliest break-up date based on the nominal calender date, but actually the 5th earliest if you time it from the vernal equinox (which accounts for leap years and other calendrical oddities). There was an ‘almost’ break up, on Thursday which would not have made much difference, though 2015 would have just edged out 2012 in the time-from-vernal-equinox ranking.

On a year-to-year basis, there is clearly a lot of variability (like the weather itself), and so a near-record break-up date this year isn’t particularly meaningful (just as 2013’s record late date wasn’t either). But I find this data set an useful example of how one can discuss trends and variability and, occasionally, make interesting predictions:

PS. I have a little side bet going based on whether this year’s result gets mentioned in the contraro-sphere. As might be expected, late years (2001, 2008 and the real outlier, 2013) get substantial coverage (originally on the late John Daly’s website, and more recently at WUWT). But last year there was no mention anywhere, and the long term trend, which is the most relevant for climate change, never gets mentioned at all. Of course, this year will be different. Oh yes.

10 Responses to “Nenana Ice Classic 2015”

  1. 1
    Zack Florence says:

    Thanks for posting this. New information for some of us.

  2. 2
    richard pauli says:

    This calls for a reference to Rube Goldberg mechanical contraption:

    “… the ice rumbled and the bulky log structure painted black and white began to make its way downstream in the Tanana River. But…An ice jam stopped the moving tripod cold.”

    “Moments earlier, the heavy, reinforced meat cleaver — the guillotine of the ice classic — fell on the main rope connecting the tripod to the tower on shore, slicing it evenly, but the tripod did not move the 100 feet required to pull the pin on the most important rope — the one that connects to the hand-wound clock set to Alaska Standard Time.”

  3. 3

    “Of course, this year will be different. Oh yes.”

    In which case the Arctic sea ice will also receive mention on WUWT, should the ‘recovery’ cease this September. Not that I’m making any predictions; April predictions of the minimum are pretty nervy (or else pretty pointless.) But it’ll be interesting to watch; while PIOMAS is showing some thicker ice, the warm anomalies in the Beaufort and also the eastern Arctic Ocean will have slowed ice growth some.

  4. 4
    WhiteBeard says:

    A minor correction to Garvin’s report. The break-up is of the Tanana River, several hundred meters up its course from where it’s joined by the considerably smaller Nenana which flows north from the vicinity the Denali (Mt. McKinley) National Park and Preserve entrance. The Parks Highway and the Alaska Railroad both cross the Tanana within a very short distance of the Nenana’s mouth and the dispersed settlement of Nenana, home to ~375 folks.

    the building seen above at a right angle at the end of Nenana’s main (A) street:

    and a map of the whole shebang:

    As Gavin reported, on Friday the jam holding the tripod in place disintegrated and it moved enough to trip the mechanism in the timing tower at 2:25 pm making break-up the 5th earliest since the Classic’s inception and allowing the latest half decade to provide 3 (2012, 2014, 2015) of the 8 earliest break-up events.

    PS: I erred earlier in this month’s open thread on the margin by which 2013 set a record for lateness. It was three hours to the minute not an hour as I mistakenly noted.

    Interestingly, the prior late record was set in 1964, less than a month after the second strongest earthquake on the planet during the 20th century occurred, just off the Alaska coast in an arc from Valdez to Kodiak Island. Fewer Alaska folks were interested in the Nenana Ice Classic that year, what with being busy with things like getting the plumbing work again in the South Central area of the state.

  5. 5
    Chase S. says:

    We were there 5 days before it went out. This year has been a warm one for Interior AK.

  6. 6
    James C. Wilson says:

    I am shocked at how you warmistas are willing to distort the data to fit your preconceptions and your religious devotion to AGW.
    Where AGW in this case stands of Arbitrary Geometric Waffling. In several instances you have called the structure a “Tripod.” Anyone who cares enough to look at the original data (, before adjustments that is, will find that there are certainly more than 3 legs involved here and perhaps as many as 8.
    No wonder S. Fred still does not believe in ozone depletion. After all, the Arctic polar vortex is rarely round and would have been wildly shaped if indeed an ozone hole opened up over Kennebunkport as was profisized by certain professors enthralled by 1 ppb of ClO and momentarily forgetting the dominance of dynamics. It never happened and it set Fred off on a career of mistrust of authority and of anyone who actually knows anything. Maybe things would have turned out differently (A Bali accord for example) if the AGWers had maintained their geometric fidelity and not set off the man who launched a million rants.

  7. 7
    Jim Eager says:

    When someone uses accusations of “religious devotion” they are tcitly admitting that they have no cogent scientific argument to make.

  8. 8
    hans says:

    @Jim Eager: It looks like James is exercising his constitutional right to irony.

  9. 9
    Mike M says:

    The OLS trend since 1997 is positive by 2.6 hours per year.

    For entertainment purposes… a 4th order polynomial fit of the data shows that we turned the corner back in ~2003 and are headed into a strong cooling trend.

  10. 10
    Nicolas Nierenberg says:

    I find it hilarious that skeptic sites bring up the ice classic when it breaks up late and you bring it up when it breaks up early. I would think you might want to avoid that kind of symmetry.

    [Response: I find it hilarious that you didn’t bother to click on the links to see that I actually wrote the first post to highlight the anomalous extremely late 2013 date. – gavin]