Climate change is happening fastest at the earth’s higher latitudes, steadily turning Alaska into a new, warmer place. These changes are particularly powerful in northern and western Alaska, where temperatures shift from mostly below to often above freezing. Places historically dominated by snow, sea ice, and permafrost are thawing and becoming places of open oceans and rain—where even the seemingly solid ground beneath your feet begins to melt.
Alaska's Changing Environment
Alaska has recently experienced profound environmental change related to extreme weather events and deviations from the historical climate. 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
- Precipitation overall has increased
- Coastal flooding during the autumn storm season has occurred on the Bering Sea coast throughout history, but recent winters have brought record low ice
The UAF International Arctic Research Center has compiled observations through August 2019 about the major changes currently affecting Alaska's physical and biological systems. This effort is by no means comprehensive, but serves to highlight the monumental shifts occurring in our state.
For us, it’s like someone moved the subsistence calendar by a month and nobody told us. We wonder what it must be like for the animals, plants and fish."
— Kotzebue resident —
“We have to relocate by choice, rather than being forced to by evacuation. By choice, we could still retain our identity, as a culture, as a community. But unless we’re willing to do it ourselves, it’s not going to happen.”
— Nora Kuzuguk, Shishmaref —
“Ocean warming may well turn out to be the greatest hidden challenge of our generation.”
— Explaining Ocean Warming, ICUN 2016 —
“Glaciers, lakes, rivers, wetlands, and permafrost – they’re all interconnected.”
— King Salmon resident —
"Our villages are being hit by a climate change quadruple whammy."
— Nome resident and workshop participant —
“Sea level rise and coastal inundation—we need the data!”
— Theme from a resilience workshop —