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Yukon River Ready for Break-up

Tonight's upcoming winter snow storm for the Interior may slow down some river break-ups this month. But the Kuskokwim and Tanana Rivers have seen record early breakups this year, and it’s likely the Yukon will follow suit.

A few factors are contributing to this spring’s early river breakups, but primarily its warmer than normal temperatures. 

Rivers Warm: Q:”...freezing degree days.” :04

That’s National Weather Service Alaska Pacific River Forecast Center hydrologist Crane Johnson in a recently posted statewide breakup forecast video. Johnson says the warmth has had an obvious effect on river ice.

Rivers Ice T2T: Q:”...left to it.” :06

National Weather Service hydrologist Karen Endres (EN-dress) says river ice thicknesses averaged about 75 percent of normal coming out of the winter. Combined with above normal spring temperatures, and generally below normal snow melt run off, early and uneventful mush outs are more the trend.

Rivers Thermal: Q:”...a thermal break up.” :04

Endres points to the Kuskokwim and Tanana Rivers, which both went out record early and largely uneventfully, but she’s cautious about predicting similar for the Yukon.

Rivers Record T2T: Q:”...going on currently.” :17

Longtime Eagle resident and National Weather Service observer John Borg reported Friday that the ice had yet to take on the darkened look it does before breaking up...but suspected it to transition fairly soon.  

Rivers May: Q:”...during the day.” :08

The earliest the Yukon River has gone out at Eagle is April 25th, and the median breakup date over the last 40 years is May 4th.

Dan has been in public radio news in Alaska since 1993. He’s worked as a reporter, newscaster and talk show host at stations in McGrath, Valdez and Fairbanks. Dan’s experience includes coverage of a wide range of topics, from wolf control to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and dog mushing.