North

Warm weather forces early closure of Alaska sled dog camps

An Alaska company has closed its sled dog camps early due to warm weather that has caused poor snow conditions, a report said. An unusually small amount of remaining winter snow prompted Coastal Helicopters to close the camps.

'You can't run the dogs on the ice. It's unsafe when the crevasses open,' says general manager

A file photo of sled dogs taking part in the 2016 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. An Alaska company has closed its sled dog camps early due to warm weather that has caused poor snow conditions. (Nathaniel Wilder/Reuters )

An Alaska company has closed its sled dog camps early due to warm weather that has caused poor snow conditions, a report said.

An unusually small amount of remaining winter snow prompted Coastal Helicopters, which offers dog sled tours, to close its camps, The Juneau Empire reported Tuesday.

A high rate of snowmelt on the Mendenhall Glacier has made the surface unsafe and caused the possibility of crevasses opening, the company said.

"You can't run the dogs on the ice. It's unsafe when the crevasses open," said Coastal Helicopters General Manager Mike Wilson.

The vertical cracks that open in glaciers can be shallow or deep, but are always a safety concern, Wilson said.

"You don't know, so you don't cross them," according to Wilson, who said low snowfall also caused a premature end to the 2013 season.

The warm summer has as much to do with conditions on the glacier as the lack of snowfall, said Eran Hood, a University of Alaska Southeast professor of environmental science.

"There's a much higher percentage [of snow] that is melting and that exposes the ice," Hood said. "You can't have dogs running on that."

Readings taken by the National Weather Service at the Juneau Airport indicate the area has had more than 41 days this year above 21 C, twice the usual number, Hood said.

"Because of the warm summer temps we're seeing, it's safe to say the amount of mass lost this year will be higher than previous years," Hood said.

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