... the great Alaskan Guessing Game!
The Nenana Ice Classic is one of the oldest continuously running betting events in the United States. It officially began in 1917, when a handful of railroad engineers bet a total of 800 dollars, winner takes all, guessing the exact time (month, day, hour, minute) ice on the Tanana River would break up. They likely modeled it after the nearby Chena Ice Classic in Fairbanks, which began in 1903, as both a source of entertainment and a way to stay vigilant—at the time, spring melt on the Chena River meant chunks of ice crashing downriver, causing flooding and taking out bridges. The Chena was dammed in 1981 to control flooding, and the Chena Ice Classic was discontinued around that time. Today the Nenana Ice Classic is a nonprofit charitable gaming organization that funds scholarships, kids’ sports teams, medical charities, and other local causes.
Each year since 1917, Alaska residents have guessed at the timing of the river breakup. A tripod, connected to an on-shore clock with a string, is planted in two feet of river ice during river freeze-up in October or November. The following spring, the clock automatically stops when the tripod moves as the river breaks the ice. The time on the clock is used as the ice breakup time.
Tickets cost $2,50 each, and they are on sale from February 1 through April 5 every year throughout Alaska. Last year the jackpot was $125,000!
The Tanana river in the Interior of Alaska usually freezes over during October and November. The ice continues to grow throughout the winter accumulating an average maximum thickness of about 110 cm, depending upon winter weather conditions. Many factors influence the river ice breakup, such as air temperature, ice thickness, snow cover, wind, water temperature, and depth of water below the ice. Generally, the Tanana river ice breaks up in late April or early May (historically, April 20 to May 20). The time series of Tanana river ice breakup dates can be used to indicate climate change in the region and of course, to predict the time of the next breakup. Would you like to try your luck to win the next Nenana Ice Classic Jackpot?
Nenana Ice Classic, . Edited by W. N. Meier and C. F. Dewes. 2020. Nenana Ice Classic: Tanana River Ice Annual Breakup Dates, Version 2. All Data. Boulder, Colorado USA. NASA National Snow and Ice Data Center Distributed Active Archive Center. doi: https://doi.org/10.5067/CAQ58H42LQY2. .