Matanuska Glacier III, 29 August 2009

Despite how overcast the day may be, somehow the sun always seems to shine on Matanuska Glacier. On this particular trip, the sky was mostly overcast at the beginning of our day hike and about half-n-half by the end. During most of the run, however, sunlight was illuminating the ice beneath our feet (well, at least when we weren’t shaded beneath a ridge of towering glacial ice). We had some shade at the start, but it quickly cleared out.

As the tourist brochures will eagerly inform you, this area of Matanuska Glacier is actually a weather hole. There are many kinds of weather holes in the world, typically defined as areas that are somehow skipped by local weather patterns for various reasons. It could be because of topography, human developmental effects, air currents, or any number of geophysical features. Weather holes are pretty cool. They’re simply little anomalous zones where the weather just doesn’t do the same as it does everywhere else nearby.

In the case of Matanuska Glacier, air rising from the glacier helps push the relatively-warmer valley air upwards. Matanuska Glacier, you see, is situated in Matanuska Valley, along Matanuska River, and is flanked by mountainous ridges to the north and south. As the warmer air is pushed up from the glacier and over the valley, clouds are kept clear of the immediate area. Thus: a sunny weather hole.

Though I have little doubt there are some days when the clouds do obscure the sun at Matansuka (especially given Alaska’s northern latitude and its relation to the sun throughout the year), each time I visited the area it was mostly sunny, while being quite overcast elsewhere nearby. All the better for the eye candy, right? Shimmering sunlight glistening through those brilliant glacial blues, all the while backdropped by dark grays, is nothing short of stunning. Sometimes I’d have to remind myself to pay attention to the ground beneath my feet and to stop gazing drunkenly at the landscape.

The dude you keep seeing in this series is not me. He’s my damn good friend, Nemec — back from the University of Oklahoma days in Norman (which is, by the way, an anti-tornado weather hole). Nemec came up to visit us in Alaska several times during our four-year run in Alaska. He is, at heart, a salmon fisher, but also a damn fine photographer and an all-around-lover of the outdoors. I think he may have been a little too over-joyed to learn we were moving to Alaska in 2007… heh. Anyhow, check out Nemec’s fantastic Matanuska Glacier photographs from this same trip here.

Tomorrow, one more round of Matanuska Glacier photographs followed by a parting shot of Matanuska Valley.

~ janson