Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program

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Dangerous Ice Project Background

The Dangerous Ice Project Jukebox began in 2004 with a National Science Foundation funded workshop held on March 3, 2004 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks where local community members and scientists shared information about Interior Alaska river and lake ice conditions. We wanted to hear their descriptions and explanations of conditions and determine if the topic of dangerous ice conditions was an area where local experts and scientists could work together to create understandings that could not be reached without each other’s expertise. The workshop consisted of slideshows, discussions, and a field trip around Fairbanks to look at different ice conditions.2004 Dangerous Ice Workshop, Fairbanks, Alaska

Participants in this workshop included: Sam Demientieff, river traveler from Fairbanks;  William Demoski, river traveler from Galena on the Yukon River; Peter Snow, river traveler from McGrath on the Kuskokwim River; Jack Reakoff, river traveler from Wiseman on the Koyukuk River; Larry Hinzman, professor of water resources at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and now director of UAF’s International Arctic Research Center; Martin Jefferies, professor of geophysics with the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and now with the Office of Naval Research; Charles Slaughter, a hydrologist with the University of Idaho’s Eco-hydrologics Research Group; Knut Kielland, a wildlife ecologist with the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks; William Schneider, professor of anthropology and Curator of Oral History at the Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks, now retired; and Sydney Stephens, a science educator affiliated with the University of Alaska Fairbanks and one of the directors of Observing Locally, Connecting Globally (OLCG) - Global Change Education Using Western Science and Native Observations, now retired. The workshop was videotaped by UAF Oral History Program staff, Karen Brewster and Marla Statscewich with assistance from Marie Mitchell. The original recordings are available in the Oral History Collection at Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Dangerous Ice Project team members and snowmachines gathered on the frozen Tanana RiverTravel on the Tanana River near Fairbanks, Manley Hot Springs and Tanana from 2005-2013 was funded by two additional National Science Foundation grants. A group of local river experts and scientists traveled by snowmachine to specific locations known by them to be dangerous or unusual. We stopped to record on video tape their group discussions about what was being observed and thoughts about the underlying causes for the condition. Some sites were visited repeatedly during different parts of the same year (early winter, mid-winter, spring). Some sites were visited repeatedly over the course of different years. And some sites were only visited once. GPS data and still photographs were also taken at each location. This long-term observational record is extremely useful for documenting changing ice conditions on the Tanana River. The original full recordings are available in the Oral History Collection at Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Participants in these river journeys included: Sam Demientieff, Neil Scannell and Wally Carlo river travelers from Fairbanks; William Demoski, river traveler from Galena and Fairbanks; Charlie Campbell, Ronnie Evans and Charlie Wright, river travelers from Tanana; Espen Jervsjo, river traveler from Manley Hot Springs; Dave Norton, scientist and river traveler from Fairbanks; Knut Kielland, river traveler and wildlife ecologist with the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks; William Schneider, professor of anthropology and Curator of Oral History at the Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks, now retired; Martin Jeffries, professor of geophysics with the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and now with the Office of Naval Research; Matthew Sturm, snow and ice scientist, U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) and now with UAF’s Geophysical Institute; Karen Brewster, research associate with UAF’s Oral History Program; Chas Jones, Ph.D Candidate, Hydrology and Groundwater Studies, University of Alaska Fairbanks; Karl Olson, UAF’s Institute of Arctic Biology; and Leslie McCartney, current Curator of Oral History at UAF’s Elmer E. Rasmuson Library.

An area of thin ice on a slough of the Tanana RiverField observations show that river ice can remain thin or non-existent at very cold temperatures, and it was hypothesized that this was caused by groundwater upwelling. Ph.D candidate Chas Jones and professor Knut Kielland conducted research to model the thermal balance between groundwater springs and river ice, and estimate how much ice is melted by groundwater upwelling based upon changing atmospheric and hydrologic conditions. From 2011-2013, they took scientific measurements at study sites on the Tanana River at Sam Charley Slough and Hot Cake Slough near Fairbanks, and Hay Slough between Manley Hot Springs and Tanana. They monitored the vertical temperature profile from the groundwater, through the water column, ice, snow, and into the air. One of their findings is that during the winter in Hotcake Slough, warm groundwater upwelling is the sole source of water in the channel and so maintains ice-free areas despite very low air temperatures. Preliminary model results indicate that groundwater upwelling can degrade up to 17 mm/day under spring conditions and that potential ice melt rates may increase by 18% under an altered climate. 

The final product of this project is publication of a booklet “On Dangerous Ice: Changing Ice Conditions on the Tanana River” that explains the ice dynamics of Cover of the dangerous ice bookletthe Tanana River in order to educate the general public about conditions they may encounter when traveling on the river in the winter and to provide general safety tips or guidelines. The booklet includes photographs and descriptions of conditions or phenomena that a traveler might encounter integrated with scientific explanations of why these conditions exist or what causes them. The information is based upon analysis of many hours of video recordings of local experts and scientists discussing sites and consultation with ice scientists and hydrologists for further explanation when necessary. Tips for minimizing risk when traveling on the dynamic rivers of Interior Alaska where you might encounter these types of conditions are also included. The booklet was prepared by William Schneider, Karen Brewster, Knut Kielland and Chas Jones, in consultation with Charlie Campbell, Wally Carlo, Sam Demientieff, William Demoski, Ronnie Evans, Espen Jervsjo, Dave Norton, Neil Scannell, and Charlie Wright.

The Dangerous Ice Project Jukebox website was first created by Project Jukebox staff members Karen Brewster, Marie Mitchell and Marla Statscewich to present the workshop Powerpoint presentations and 2005-2007 river site observations.  In 2013, Karen Brewster and Leslie McCartney of Project Jukebox worked to update the Dangerous Ice Project Jukebox into our new Drupal format and expanded it to include the 2010-2013 river site observations and scientific data collected.

Thanks go to Ilana Kingsley, Associate Professor and Web Librarian at Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Cherry Hill Company of Los Angeles, California for their technical expertise and development of the 2013 website and map-based component.

This has been a joint project between Elmer E. Rasmuson Library and the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.