Over the weekend, a historically massive wildfire threatened four Yup’ik villages on the Yukon River in southwestern Alaska. Rick Thoman, a Principal Investigator with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy (ACCAP), a NOAA RISA team, has been working to update people from the Yukon River Delta region about the fire that is threatening their communities.
While the fire started when a bolt of lightning struck the tundra, the conditions that have allowed it to spread so rapidly were created by climate change. Thoman has been communicating with state and national news media about the situation, and reported that the fire threatening St. Mary’s and other nearby communities “this is the biggest tundra wildfire the region has ever seen, and the second largest tundra wildfire in Alaska in over 40 years”, and that “the dramatic increase in tundra vegetation and increase in spruce tree size is a big contributing factor”. This story highlights how maintaining an ongoing relationship with rural Alaska communities, like ACCAP does, helps people know where to go for important information and climate context when a significant climate event occurs.
For more information, contact Genie Bey.