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Breakup Outlook for Interior: 'Pretty Average Year'

This week’s warm weather is turning attention to river breakup. National Weather Service hydrologist Ed Plumb is tracking factors that play into ice out.

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

Plumb says above normal snow pack in the Canadian Yukon will send a lot of water into the upper Yukon River, but a forecast 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.”

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.” 

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 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. ###