Nenana Ice Breakup, Alaska, 2016

This is an update of by blog message on 14 April 2016:    Nenana Ice Breakup

This year, the 100th year since records commenced in 1917, the breakup occurred on Saturday 23 April at 3:39 pm AKST (Alaska Standard Time).

Here are two videos of the 2016 breakup:


Here are my updated plots including the 2016 event:

Ice 6

Nenana 3

Nenana 4

The past three years have had breakups on 25, 24 and 23 April respectively (one day earlier each year – surely this proves that climate change is real!!!).  However, while being at the lower (early) side of the sample (probably reflecting the mild winters and spring in the past few years), this year was definitely not record-breaking.  In 1940 and 1988 the breakup occurred on 20 April, while in 1964 and 2013 the breakup occurred very late on 20 May.  Or maybe it is just the weather!

It is amazing how the landscape changes in one day:

Nenana 23Apr16

On 23 April, half an hour before the breakup.

Nenana 24Apr16

And on the next afternoon it is all gone.


There is a close correlation with the breakup in the Yukon River at Dawson City, Canada where breakup data are available since 1896.
The Yukon river breakup occurs, on average, 8 to 10 days later than at Nenana.

Please let me know if you have any comments.  Does anybody (like a local) know what the mechanism of the 2016 breakup was?  For example, was there rain in the catchment?  Or just spring weather?

The Author:

This article was written by Brian Gunter Narooma, NSW. In his previous life Brian was an engineering hydrologist involved over many years in the analysis of rainfall and river flow of data for the planning of major water resources projects in Australia, Asia and Africa. In recent years he has been one of the Marine Rescue NSW (previously Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol) volunteer weather observers who operate the Narooma station for the Bureau of Meteorology.


3 thoughts on “Nenana Ice Breakup, Alaska, 2016

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