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In Brief

Alaska's Warm Weather Could Mean Mushy Iditarod Race

Iditarod National Historic Trail
The Iditarod National Historic Trail encompasses several connecting trails extending from Seward to Nome. (Image credit: BLM )

Thanks to a few inches of fresh snow, the route for Alaska's venerable Iditarod sled dog race, which kicks off on Saturday (March 1), may be in much better shape than race organizers feared just a week ago. The state's unusually warm winter, with record-setting high temperatures and rain instead of snow, meant Iditarod racers faced icy trail conditions and open water as recently as Sunday (Feb. 17).

Race organizers had planned to groom more than 60 miles (96 kilometers) of trail before the recent storm covered the southern part of the trail with fresh powder, the Anchorage Daily News reported. However, racers still expect to face more ice than snow along the 1,000-mile (1,600 km) trail, which runs from Willow to Nome, crossing two mountain ranges and the Bering Sea Coast.

Earlier this year, unseasonably warm weather also hurt trail conditions for the Yukon Quest, a sled dog race of similar length between Fairbanks, Alaska, and Whitehorse, Canada. Officials moved the start and finish lines and rerouted part of the trail because of thin ice due to warm weather.

Read more: Alaska Heat & Atlanta Snow: What Happened?

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Becky Oskin
Becky Oskin covers Earth science, climate change and space, as well as general science topics. Becky was a science reporter at Live Science and The Pasadena Star-News; she has freelanced for New Scientist and the American Institute of Physics. She earned a master's degree in geology from Caltech, a bachelor's degree from Washington State University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz.