Spring Weather Changes Affect Sports

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The Division of Community and Regional Affairs reports every season brings with it further evidence of climate change in Alaskan communities with record-breaking temperatures that have resulted in thawing permafrost, thinning sea ice and increasing wildfires.

With these adverse effects is the accompanied shortening of the spring breakup period.  

In turn, that enables an earlier clearing of the track and turf for track and field as well as soccer.  This alteration in spring sports has been a discernable one, according to individuals who oversee these sports.  

John Snead, the activities director for Dimond High School, stated, “This year the turf was cleared especially early.”  

He added, “You must factor in that this year we had individuals with low ground pressure snow blowers go over the turf and the track, but overall yes, the turf and track throughout the years seemed to be clearing quicker.”

Snow removal plans are crucial for avoiding delays to spring sports and costly repairs for damages related to improper removal.

Former Dimond High Schools head Soccer coach, Barrat Killian, said,  “Throughout all my years at the school I had noticed the turf was clearing quicker and less and fewer layers were required in the initial practices after the turf had been cleared.”

In continuing this notion, he also said, “It is somewhat nice in the sense of getting out of the gym earlier in the season.”

James Hancock, Dimond’s assistant principal for activities, said, “No this isn’t an April Fool’s joke, the turf is ready to use.”

For some context this year he said this on April 1, which is 18 days earlier than last year and 22 earlier than the year before that.  

In a broader context over the past 60 years, Alaska has warmed more than twice as rapidly as the rest of the United States, with state-wide average annual air temperature increasing by 3°F and average winter temperature by 6°F, with substantial year-to-year and regional variability.

The average annual temperatures in Alaska are projected to rise by an additional 2°F to 4°F by 2050; this is according to the National Climate Assesment.  

These trends depict a precedent that for the most part, that these new patterns may become the new normal.  This would entail even earlier clearings and possibly little to no need for Dome time for either of the sports.  

In the notion of school funding, this may be a beneficial change allowing for the school district to negate some costs of renting out the Dome for the allocated times.  

The broader implications outweigh the marginal benefits or rising temperatures.  

Alaska differs from most of the rest of the U.S. in having frozen ground or permafrost that restricts water drainage and therefore strongly influences landscape water balance and the design and maintenance of infrastructure.

The uneven sinking of the ground in response to permafrost thaw is estimated to add between $3.6 and $6.1 billion which 10 percent to 20 percent to current costs of maintaining public infrastructures such as buildings, pipelines, roads, and airports over the next 20 years.

A recent update to the story is the fact that snow is predicted to come in the upcoming days.  Yet, this is still not in contradiction to the previously expressed points.

Weather is the day-to-day state of the atmosphere and its short-term variation in minutes to weeks.  Climate is the weather of a place averaged over a period of time, often 30 years.

Climate information includes the statistical weather information that tells us about the normal weather, as well as the range of weather extremes for a location.

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