Nenana Ice Classic now past 4th latest ice breakup

Reader Psalmon writes:

Nenana River ice breakup nears top three latest dates in 97 years of contest

It may have escaped notice, but this last Saturday the locals in Nanana, AK hooked up the clock to determine the breakup and winner of the annual Nenana Ice Classic.  Further ice measurements were apparently suspended last Thursday with the last measurement of 40 inches (just).

If you think May 11 seems late for starting the countdown, it is.

After the fourth earliest breakup in 2012 (April 23), as of this afternoon on May 14th, the tripod still stands, making 2013 the fourth latest breakup in the 97 years of the contest.  Only 1935 (May 15), 1945 (May 16), and 1964 (May 21) still rate longer.

It’s hard to forget geophysicist Martin Jeffries at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks saying in 2009,

The Nenana Ice Classic is a pretty good proxy for climate change in the 20th century.

Sage insight.

More here:

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May 14, 2013 6:16 pm

Weather is not climate but as long as the alarmists insist on treating it like it is when it allows them to fear monger, then it is fair game to throw it back in their faces.

May 14, 2013 6:28 pm

But I’m sure this is just more proof of Global Warming…rubber?…glue?…I’m not sure who

May 14, 2013 6:31 pm

I wonder how long it’s been taking between the time they hook up the clock and when they tend to see the breakup.
So we’ve gone from 4th earliest to 4th latest in one year. Wonder how the warmists will spin it? Climate Volatility vs Climate Change vs Global Warming?

May 14, 2013 6:31 pm

climate is an human artifact. the longer the “climate period”, the larger the range of any particular climactic value and the greater it’s variance.
what humans need to learn is that weather is the product of chaos. random is as random does.

May 14, 2013 6:39 pm

It’s only climate if its unusually warm, otherwise it’s just weather.

Alan S. Blue
May 14, 2013 6:39 pm

I see heat sources right next to the instrument. 😀

May 14, 2013 6:44 pm

But don’t you see? Last year fourth earliest, and this year already fourth latest! Proof of increasing climate extremes!!!
/sarc off. Or proof that on average over two years, it is just average.

May 14, 2013 6:52 pm

The NCDC is not in charge of this record, otherwise it would be the third earliest.
Coldest, longest, latest, most snow … These facts are not supposed to be possible in a warming world, especially one with polar amplification.
Obviously, we need to go to real actual climate records like this one and ignore the official NCDC records which are obviously distorted and need to be fixed by removing those in charge of the organization – write your elected representative).

May 14, 2013 6:58 pm

They must be really happy to see the sun.

May 14, 2013 7:15 pm

The heat from the water at the surface has obviously been absorbed by the deep waters of the Nenana, allowing the ice to freeze deeper.

ferd berple
May 14, 2013 7:35 pm

When it warms it is due to climate change. When it cools it is due to climate change. When the climate doesn’t change, that is abnormal because climate normally changes, so no change is evidence of climate change as well. Only when the climate is neither warming, cooling nor staying the same can we be sure that climate change has ended.

Lance Wallace
May 14, 2013 8:04 pm

Quite a pretty histogram of breakup dates/times on the official ice breakup page:
Only two more days to 2nd place, but the latest breakup was May 20, so a tough road to the top.

May 14, 2013 8:29 pm

The climate variability ….is unprecedented!

May 14, 2013 8:46 pm

I live in Fairbanks and always wondered about the latest date the tripod went out, May 20, 1964. That was the year of the Great Alaska Earthquake, March 27 (Good Friday), 1964, magnitude 9.2. I wondered if the earthquake in any way influenced the late date. No great quakes this year. I guess it is coincidental.

May 14, 2013 8:47 pm

Popcorn’a popp’n !
Trendberth and company at NCAR must be near mass murder threshold so watch out when Kevin dons a black wet suite with the letters AGW and AK-47 and grenade bag and starts killing anyone in range.
But naw. Kevin has not clue about AK-47s or grenades or killing, he does like to kill butterflies and puppies though and he has been known to flush gold fish in a toilet.
Has no clue about meteorology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, or for goodness sake, the weather. Its all a Reanalysis (reoccurring anal cyst) Job to him.
Ha ha.

Dave Wendt
May 14, 2013 11:01 pm

Predicted low for tonight is 18F, so it should make a little ice overnight, although daylight is up to almost 19 hours at this point. Possibility of snow on Friday and Saturday. The Ice Classic webcam seems to show there was some open water along the shoreline but it appears to have refrozen. I don’t know if it will go past the 20th, but it looks pretty good to at least get to No. 2.

Berényi Péter
May 14, 2013 11:24 pm

In a sense we are already past the 1935 ice breakup time, which was May 15 13:32, local time. I do not know if there was daylight saving in Alaska back then, but it is only an hour, anyway. While calendar effect brings spring more than a full day earlier now, than 78 years ago.
For weather surely does not care about our calendar dates, it is governed by the phase relative to the tropical year, whose mean length is 365.242189 days in this epoch, which makes 78 tropical years 28488.89 days long. At the same time there were 20 leap years since then, and 78×365+20 makes 28490.
Tripod is still standing as of 2013-05-14 AKDT 22:21:00 (which corresponds to May 16, 1935, a few minutes past midnight). We have 9 more hours or so to surpass 1945 and make this year’s rank second.

May 14, 2013 11:29 pm

All this shows is that high volatility is currently present in the data set.
What odds its closer to the median in 2014?

Go Home
May 14, 2013 11:35 pm

Here is the webcam….
Not sure why dates are not equal? Seems more dates than 4 are past today from past breakups. Seems others have figured it out… “Tripod is still standing as of 2013-05-14 AKDT 22:21:00 (which corresponds to May 16, 1935, “

Go Home
May 14, 2013 11:37 pm

I think peter above explained it for me. Sorry, missed that post.

Berényi Péter
May 14, 2013 11:41 pm

Nah, calendar offset relative to 1945 is only 0.53 days, and 0.13 days to 1964, as opposed to 1.11 days to 1935. Therefore it does not help much once we have made it to the first three.

May 14, 2013 11:50 pm

I predict May 27, my birthday.

May 14, 2013 11:52 pm

I’d feel better about that tripod photo if someone can assure me that Gore, Trenberth, Romm, McKibben and Mann are not inside those warm parkas stomping down on that ice. 🙂

May 15, 2013 12:16 am

Is wagering allowed?

May 15, 2013 12:25 am

and 1964/65 winter saw a huge flood in the Pacific Northwest, No Cal to Washington

Brian H
May 15, 2013 1:00 am

If it lasts another 10 days it would be cool, he said. Urk. It would be chillin’, even! ;P

May 15, 2013 1:01 am

“The Nenana Ice Classic is a pretty good proxy for climate change in the 20th century.”
I think we can all say Aye Aye to that! The “science” has been unsettled!!

Steve C
May 15, 2013 1:01 am

papiertigre says (May 15, 12:16 am )
Is wagering allowed?
I think you’ll find it’s the main purpose of the Classic (though I dunno whether they’d allow foreigners like me (and presumably you, monsieur) to chip in a few $ or not. Probably not a lot to do in Alaska when your river’s frozen over!

Peter Hartley
May 15, 2013 1:25 am

The late, great John Daly commented on this as a climate proxy here:
He noted that urban warming in Fairbanks had probably contaminated this record making it not such a pure measure of CO2-induced climate change after all. If he is right, getting close to a new record now is even more significant.

kadaka (KD Knoebel)
May 15, 2013 1:53 am

The webcam image below updates every 30 seconds. Be sure to hit the Refresh button on your browser to see the latest image.
The Date and Time stamp across the top are not the official time of the Nenana Ice Classic.

4:40AM EDT in Central Pennsylvania, still dark outside. With the pic timestamp at 00:38:39 AKDT, pic is showing brightly lit land and sky.
Wow, Nenana must be so far above the Arctic Circle, it’s actually right above Europe.

Max Roberts
May 15, 2013 2:06 am

Just you wait,
Give it a couple of years and the misanthropic luddite environmentalists, given credibility by band-waggon-jumping snake-oil-selling university researchers will have found a way of ‘proving’ that carbon dioxide causes global cooling and the next ice age.
Switch off your heating or you will make it even colder.

Greg Goodman
May 15, 2013 2:48 am

“After the fourth earliest breakup in 2012 (April 23), as of this afternoon on May 14th, the tripod still stands, making 2013 the fourth latest breakup in the 97 years of the contest. ”
Perhaps this alternation is a manifestation of the strong two year periodicity that I found in Arctic ice coverage:
A one-year anti-correlation has been reported in the literature as well. Though it seems no one has gone as far as examining the data with spectral analysis as I show above.

May 15, 2013 3:11 am

Very lousy warming in 100 years, in a place were the warming is supposed to be the strongest in the whole world??

Chuck Nolan
May 15, 2013 3:25 am

goldminor says:
May 14, 2013 at 11:50 pm
I predict May 27, my birthday.
I predict your birthday is June 19.
but that’s not fair……you’ve seen your driver’s licence.

May 15, 2013 4:23 am

Through the wonders of Google Earth I found the tower at:
Latitude: 64.564687°
Longitude: -149.093438°
/Just in case anyone else is curious.

Kurt in Switzerland
May 15, 2013 5:36 am

It would be useful to plot ice breakup date vs. year from 1919 through the present (and into 2020 and beyond, of course). As of today, a linear regression guesstimate would be about 10 days sooner per century (1 day sooner per decade). It would require a string of late thaws to modify that trend significantly. So this does indeed look like a reasonable proxy for warming over the 20th Century, making geophysicist Martin Jeffries was about right.
Of course, an average breakup date for multiple arctic and near-arctic rivers (in both the E. & W. Hemispheres) would be arguably better at identifying any long-term climate trends in the N. Hemisphere. It would also be beneficial to present correlation of breakup date with a PDO index as well as to highlight the river level at the time of freezeup the previous autumn (as the latter would offer better predictability of potential flooding damage upon breakup).
Note the tragic helicopter accident in Irkutsk last week:
An idea for a new reference page at WUWT?
“Spring Ice Breakup Dates for N. Hemisphere Rivers”
Kurt in Switzerland

Kurt in Switzerland
May 15, 2013 5:56 am

IPCC AR4 covered studies on ice freeze and breakup dates on N. Hemisphere rivers:
The majority of the rivers presented show a trend toward both later freeze dates and earlier breakup dates.
More recent, extensive studies show a trend toward earlier freeze dates in Canada and mixed results between E. and W. Siberia, however.
Kurt in Switzerland

Bruce Cobb
May 15, 2013 6:34 am

I have a FlexiClime™ model which allows me, once ice-out occurs, to predict the date and time retroactively. It is truly marvelous.

May 15, 2013 7:15 am

The climate is wrong – it ain’t following da computa models.

Don B
May 15, 2013 7:28 am

The early ice breakup date in 1998 was the last hurrah for the warm phase of the PDO. Since then the trend has been towards later breakups, at the rate of 0.4 day per year. (The Excel linear calculation assumes this year’s breakup is today, May 15, which is not my prediction, but an assumption to use in the calculation.)

May 15, 2013 8:16 am

Meanwhile, it snowed in the UK last night.

May 15, 2013 8:37 am

Just looking at the accumulated heating degree days over the last ten years vs the breakup time I see a correlation of sorts. Just eyeballing, I get a breakup time in the last week of may based on the current weather forecast.

May 15, 2013 8:41 am

Frostheave says:
“I live in Fairbanks and always wondered about the latest date the tripod went out, May 20, 1964.”
Don’t think earthquakes had much to do with it. However, the linked article (below) shows a plausible tie to long periods of temperature below 50 degrees and how late in the year the temperature stayed below 50 in Fairbanks. 1964 holds the recored of 230 days below 50 and did not get above 50 until May 23. This year was the 5th longest with 213 days and did get above 50 until May 8. All of the other three years with long periods belw 50 degrees had the ice break up in May (1982, May 10; 1971, May 8; 1931, May 10) but in thse years it got above 50 in April.
230 days — Oct. 6, 1963 to May 23, 1964
220 days — Sept. 16, 1981 to April 24, 1982
218 days — Sept. 16, 1970 to April 22, 1971
216 days — Sept. 15, 1930 to April 19, 1931
215 days — Oct. 4, 2012 to May 8, 2013

George E. Smith
May 15, 2013 10:00 am

Well for starters, there’s no such thing as global climate. Climate is a regional thing. California climate isn’t like Oregon climate or like London climate.
And as everyone knows, the SI unit of climate change interval is 30 years. So every 30 years or so is often enough to decide whether to sell your house and move to a better climate. Evidently, we didn’t like Africa, so we moved out; over to the next valley about every 30 years; ended up in Sunnyvale Ca.
So climate change we can handle; MOVE !
It’s weather that doesn’t give you time to move, and does all the damage. Some argue that climate is the average of weather. Not true; on average, nothing at all happens. Climate may be the sum total of all past weather; but it ain’t the average. Super storms on average don’t do much damage. Sandy for instance, on average didn’t do much; it’s only if you cherry pick the data, and talk about when this house, or that gambling casino, fell down that anybody notices anything happening. On average, it’ll all disappear eventually; and people only seem to remember when their house fell down. Most houses don’t fall down, and nobody seems to notice that they don’t.
And if the North pole is following one of Leif Svalgaard’s southern routes to the East on it’s way to Greenland, well pretty soon it will be in Nenana so that tower quits falling down.

May 15, 2013 10:04 am

According to the long range forecast, If the tripod doesn’t fall by tomorrow (Thursday, 16 May), the lows will be below freezing until Wednesday the 22nd) with a 50% chance of snow Friday & Saturday.
We could have a new Record!

May 15, 2013 10:08 am

Starting to move this morning, based on camera, should be long now.

May 15, 2013 10:46 am

I think the archives need revised to bring the prior dates more in line with the known global warming that has occured over the same time frame. Should we apply a linear correction or exponential? After correcting the historic data it will be pretty clear that the river won’t freeze at all in 2030. Wait no, 2300.

Mac the Knife
May 15, 2013 11:11 am

It may have escaped notice, but this last Saturday the locals in Nanana, AK hooked up the clock to determine the breakup and winner of the annual Nenana Ice Classic. Further ice measurements were apparently suspended last Thursday with the last measurement of 40 inches (just).
…..40 inches of ice (just)…?? 3.33 feet thickness of ice is a LOT of ice on the river yet!
We just might have an all time winner here!
Nenana AK forecast:

Jack Hydrazine
May 15, 2013 9:48 pm

What if the ice doesn’t completely melt? Who will be declared the winner?

May 16, 2013 12:32 am

I think it will break pretty soon sometime in the morning tomorrow or late evening I guess. What will happen if no one win this year does the pot will add for next year quess ing?

James at 48
May 16, 2013 9:46 am

FYI – some of the far reaching effects of the late cold pool in AK:
This set up is a cold record setting set up for CA. When it happens near the Winter Solstice the results can be striking. Witness the late Dec 1990 / Early Jan 1991 outbreak, which happened shortly after all time records being set up in Fairbanks.

Gail Combs
May 16, 2013 4:36 pm

Latest report: (May 16, 2013)

FAIRBANKS – The Nenana Ice Classic tripod is still standing and will probably remain upright for a few more days, which could mean a new record for the latest breakup ever in Alaska’s oldest and richest guessing game.
“I’m thinking we’ve probably got a record breaker here,” Ice Classic manager Cherrie Forness said on Wednesday from Nenana.
The latest breakup in the 97-year history of the Ice Classic is May 20, 1964, at 11:41 a.m. Alaska Standard Time. The Tanana River ice and the forecast for the next few days lead her to believe this year’s winning time will be later than that, Forness said.
“It’s supposed to get cold again and it’s still staying below freezing at night,” she said.
While the Tanana River ice is starting to show signs of weakening in a few spots above and below the tripod in the form of open water holes, the ice around the tripod is holding fast, she said.
“There’s no water yet near or around the tripod,” Forness said.

May 16, 2013 6:31 pm

The second latest ice breakup was 1945 May 16th at 0941 (Alaska Standard Time). The Tripod cam says 2013-05-16 AKDT 17:09:30. Or something like that – the digits have a partial white border and the sky is overcast so they’re hard to read. At any rate, we’re past the 2nd latest time, but a little less than four days for the record.
The direct link to the latest photo is
Jack Hydrazine says:
May 15, 2013 at 9:48 pm
> What if the ice doesn’t completely melt? Who will be declared the winner?
It’s a river. All it has to do is push ice far enough downstream to pull the cable off the clock. That will happen long before all the ice melts. They call it “ice breakup”.
Pradagirl says:
May 16, 2013 at 12:32 am
> What will happen if no one win this year does the pot will add for next year guessing?
I think the award goes to those with the closest estimate. There are probably several bets on June just in case. Over 100,000 tickets appear to have been sold, I’m sure a lot of people were betting on outlier dates and hours to avoid the crowds in the middle. (The time slots bet on are all one hour long.)

May 17, 2013 8:37 am


(The time slots bet on are all one hour long.)

Are each of the bets a full hour in length?
The theory seems good, but needs data for strength
The tickets have places to put in the minute
It seems that it’s “closest” — one ticket will win it:

The annual guessing game began 97 years ago as a bet between railroad workers about when the river would start running come spring. Today, Alaskans pay $2.50 for a chance to guess the exact day, hour, and minute the ice on the Tanana River will go out – pulling with it the famous black-and-white striped tripod with a red flag, which stops a shore-mounted clock nearby. If nobody guesses the exact time, the closest guess wins, regardless of whether it is over or under the actual ice-out time. Ties share the jackpot, and frequently several tickets share the winning time.

This is from a reporter … they’re frequently wrong
But it matches what I’d seen, and seems pretty strong.
===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

Don Mogstad
May 17, 2013 8:33 pm

“The Nenana Ice Classic is a pretty good proxy for climate change in the 20th century.”
He said 20th century … and he will likely stick with what he said.
The 21st Century … now that is a whole nuther story that we will need to make up as we go along. (pretty soon though, the “data anomolies” are going to beat the hell out of the AGW proxies).

May 17, 2013 9:00 pm

@ Chuck Nolan…a guy has to start somewhere when trying to predict. Having a correct prediction right off the bat can aid in future predictions. So I picked an easy one.

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