Alaska's Changing Environment: a new report on major observed climate changes

Alaska's Changing Environment: a new report on major observed climate changes

The Climate Program Office’s Alaska RISA team (Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy), in partnership with the International Arctic Research Center and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, has released a new report, Alaska’s Changing Environment, documenting recent observed profound changes in the environment related to extreme weather events and deviations from the historical climate.

Rick Thoman and John Walsh of the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy authored the report, which describes major changes in temperature, sea ice, glaciers, permafrost, plants, animals, and oceans. The Climate Program Office’s Climate Observations and Monitoring program funded a portion of Walsh’s research into Alaska climate indicators (tundra greening, growing season warmth, storminess, sea ice) informing the report. “Alaska’s Changing Environment” features a section with anecdotal observations from extreme rural areas of the Alaska. Among other observations, it states that “sustained warmth, sea ice loss, coastal flooding, river flooding, and major ecosystem changes have impacted the daily lives of Alaskans around the state. Temperatures have been consistently warmer than at any time in the past century.”

The well-illustrated report focuses on 2014 to August 2019 but also provides information from earlier decades for historical context. The International Arctic Research Center plans to update this report every three years with the most current information available.     

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Americans’ health, security and economic wellbeing are tied to climate and weather. Every day, we see communities grappling with environmental challenges due to unusual or extreme events related to climate and weather. In 2017, the United States experienced a record-tying 16 climate- and weather-related disasters where overall costs reached or exceeded $1 billion. Combined, these events claimed 362 lives, and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted, costing more than $306 billion. Businesses, policy leaders, resource managers and citizens are increasingly asking for information to help them address such challenges.

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