Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Snowless Sled Dogs

There Isn't Enough Snow This Year to Properly Start the Iditarod

"Am I concerned about the fate of winter in general and our world climate as a whole?" one musher said. "Absolutely."

The Huffington Post 03/02/2016 Ryan Grenoble News Editor

Thanks to a lack of snow, the start of the 2016 Iditarod has gone to the dogs.

Course officials warned Tuesday the ceremonial opening of the storied, 1,000-mile-long dog sled race in Anchorage, Alaska, might be cut short Saturday over the missing snow, which is disappearing thanks to unseasonably warm temperatures.

"It’s no secret that warm temperatures for days on end have further eroded what little snow cover existed on the trail system here in Anchorage,” Iditarod CEO Stan Hooley told Alaska Dispatch News in a statement. “We are exploring our options at this time as we very well may need to shorten our Day 1 Ceremonial Start.”

Municipal street maintenance manager Paul Vanlandingham told KTVA last week they'd need to truck in 1,000 to 1,100 loads of snow in order to run the full 11-mile start. The Alaska Railroad has offered to haul 300 cubic yards of snow down from Fairbanks, more than 350 miles north.

ASSOCIATED PRESS This March 11, 2009, photo shows Matt Hayashida, of Willow, Alaska, driving his team along the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race trail near the Takotna, Alaska, checkpoint. 

Ryne Olson, a musher who will compete in the Iditarod for the second time this year, told The Huffington Post warm temperatures and weak snowpack have become more of a concern in recent years.

"We've been experiencing record high temperatures, which in Fairbanks translates from the normal -20F to -40F to a balmy 15F to -15F," she said in an email. "Down in south central Alaska, the warmer temperatures have been too warm, meaning the normal snow has turned to ice and rain ... my fingers are crossed that the only issue is the Ceremonial Start and the first portion of the race."

"Am I concerned about the fate of winter in general and our world climate as a whole? Absolutely," Olson said.

ASSOCIATED PRESS Bare patches of grass and mud are seen on sled dog trails in Anchorage, Alaska, in this photo taken on March 5, 2015.
Alaska Dispatch News noted this year's race is only the latest in a series of efforts frowned upon by the weather gods.
In 2015, the course had to be moved to accommodate a lack of snow, and in 2014 a barren segment of the course injured several teams, causing them to drop out.

This video is from last year, hence the reference to the start being moved to Fairbanks.

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