Ecosystems, people and wildlife all rely on water and all feel the impacts of changes in Alaska’s water systems. Below are some of the impacts of climate change on water systems in Alaska.
- More Storms, Less Water Retention
Periodic big storms can create dryer conditions than small, frequent participation events because water falls on saturated ground and flows straight to the ocean.
- Shrinking Lakes and a Dryer Tundra
Many Alaska lakes, ponds and wetlands are shrinking due to warmer temperatures and a loss of the permafrost that keeps water from draining into the soil.
- Melting Glaciers
Glaciers and ice sheets can store large quantities of water for thousands of years. If glaciers disappear these “natural reservoirs” no longer store water for gradual release during the summer.
- Freshwater Rivers and Streams
Rivers and streams are seeing changes in erosion, flow and sedimentation rates as a result of permafrost thaws and new meltwater patterns.
Impacts in Alaska
Changing hydrology impact species like salmon that travel through and spawn in the waterways. Drought and increases in river sediment impact vessel traffic and transportation infrastructure when waterways become shallow or channels change. Many Alaska communities are also experiencing greater flooding as a result of changes to precipitation patterns, ice dynamics and warmer temperatures causing high rates of seasonal melting.