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09/01/08 - The Nenana Ice Classic

Every year since 1917 there has been a contest betting on the date the ice melts on the Tanana River in Nenana, Alaska. Since gambling is involved, and the stakes are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, this contest has provided an excellent record of warming in Alaska. People may debate global warming, but gamblers bet their money on it.

If you look at the chart, you can see which day of the year the ice melts. They time it to the nearest minute, and you can see a broad cluster of dates, but a general decline as the river melts earlier in the year than it used to. The equation near the upper left of the chart shows a trend with a slope of -0.0721 which means that the river melts about one hour and 44 minutes earlier each year. The river thaws, on the average six and a half days earlier than it did in 1917.

Needless to say, there is a lot of noise in the melting date. On the other hand, the smart money has been betting on earlier dates than in the past.

Keywords: science, alaska