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One of the most common questions asked about Barrow is of course, "What is it like at -40F?". In fact it rarely gets that cold in Barrow anymore! But during the early morning hours of January 26, 2006 it hit -46F; which had moderated to -40 or so by Noon, but convinced me that I shouldn't bother checking the Post Office or even picking up a newspaper... Why bother to even start my truck!

So I walked across the road to Sam & Lee's Restaurant for a buffet lunch, with no intention of going farther. But... when I poked my head out the door to go home, I was looking south at the ice fog in the setting sun, and immediately knew it might be years (with global warming) before I have a better chance photograph Barrow at that temperature.

Here is a tour of Barrow at -40 on January 26, 2006, just as the sun hits its zenith, and then sets.






Image 1

Looking at Barrow from Simmond's Hill in Browerville
The Lower Lagoon, and the dam that separates it from the Middle Lagoon are hidden by the fog, but the three power poles that are just visible in the background fog are on the dam. The plume of vapor just right of center is from the power plant across the Middle Lagoon. The temperature when this image was taken, at about 2PM on January 31, 2006, was about -40. The low temperture in the previous several hours was -45F, and fluctuated all day between -38F and -40F.
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Image 2

From Simmond's Hill on the edge of Browerville
Like the above image, except this one has a wider angle. A picture showing the right half of the above area , except taken in the summer with clear conditions, gives and idea just how much actually is obscured by the ice fog.
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Image 3

The back road into Barrow...
This was taken through the front windshield while driving on the Dam Road, on the back side of the Middle Lagoon, approaching Barrow from Browerville.
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Image 4

Following a frontend loader down Okpik Street
Compare this image with the next image below, and look at how the wind changes. The buildings on the left are the bus barn for the North Slope Borough School District, and on the right is the Barrow High School. The road direction of travel is just about due west, and the wind is blowing the vapor trail south.
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Image 5

The frontend loader farther down Okpik Street
Note the vapor trail in this image, where the loader is now past the end of the building on the right, and the wind is more fully blocked on the left. Here the vapor trail is being blown north.
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Image 6

Looking south into the fog and haze
This image is practically from the front steps of the Airport Inn, looking south at about 2:30 PM. The sun is just past its zenith. That is about as high as it gets on January 31! The sun has only been actually getting above the horizon since January 24.
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Image 7

More fog and haze.
This image was taken another block down Okpik Street, going east from the previous image.

This image is an example where it would be possible to make a more "artistic" image, by changing the contrast for example, but the purpose of these images is not to show the lighting effects one can get when taking pictures of sunsets! All post processing on this and the other images was directed towards make the picture look as close as possible to what it actually looked like to the human observer.
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Image 8

Looking North at the ASRC Building.
This image, like all of those which look directly down a street, was taken through the front windshield.

This is looking north on Kiogak Street, just after the sun has set. The extra haze is probably because this is a busy corner. The School District Central Office is on the left, and just to the left of the car lights is the North Slope Borough Police Station. Just to the right of the car, hidden the fog, is the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation building. The Court House is farther to the right from the ASRC building, out of sight. The Savat Center, where the telephone company, the State of Alaska, and the Wells Fargo Bank are located, is hidden behind the Police Station. Pepe's North of the Border Restaurant is out of sight to the left, and Sam and Lee's Chinese Restaurant is just behind and to the left of the vehicle.
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Image 9

The ASRC building, out of the fog and haze.
This image is from a point barely 1 or 2 hundred yards farther down Kiogak Street from the previous image. Virtually none of the detail in this image was visible in the previous image, with the exception of the radio antenna towers on top of the ASRC building with the setting sun reflecting off them.

One characteristic of ice fog, whether it is in Barrow or Fairbanks, is that landmarks and street signs are hidden. Here in Barrow the North Slope Borough Department of Municipal Services actually does brush the snow off of road signs a couple times a year, which helps visitors that might otherwise get lost.
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Created: February 1, 2006

Updated: September 27, 2010

Copyright 2006, 2010 Floyd L. Davidson