Five scientists have padded their way on snowshoes into the middle of this frozen swamp in Fairbanks. They are here to measure the pillowy, perfect snowpack that has fallen here, flake by flake, since last October.

Not far away, a dog musher yells “gee” to urge her lead dogs right on a fork of one of the winter trails through the refuge. As the researchers work under the sunshine in the 6-degree air, a red squirrel rattles and chickadees sing. Spring at last.

Since the late 1970s, the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute has provided this column free in cooperation with the UAF research community. Ned Rozell is a science writer for the Geophysical Institute.