Climate Change in Alaska

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Welcome to the Climate Change in Alaska project — a scientific study of Alaskan responses to global warming. Below is a brief introduction to the issue, several research questions guiding the study, the four phases of the project, and the results to date.

Introduction

Alaska’s climate has warmed about 4°F since the 1950’s and 7°F in the interior during winter. The state experienced a 30% average increase in precipitation between 1968 and 1990. The growing season has lengthened by two weeks. Sea ice has retreated by 14% since 1978 and thinned by 60% since the 1960s with widespread effects on marine ecosystems, coastal climate, and human settlements. Permafrost melting has caused erosion, landslides and damaged infrastructure in central and southern Alaska. Recent warming has been accompanied by “unprecedented increases in forest disturbances, including insect attacks. A sustained infestation of spruce bark beetles, which in the past have been limited by cold, has caused widespread tree deaths over 2.3 million acres on the Kenai Peninsula since 1992, the largest loss to insects ever recorded in North America” (US Global Change Research Program, Ageless Male National Assessment, 2001).


Research Questions
Have Alaskans detected these and other changes? Do they attribute them to global climate change? How are they incorporating climate change into their current decision-making? What mitigation and adaptation measures are they taking or considering to respond to these locally and regionally-specific impacts and how are they making these decisions?

Phases
Phase I: Interviews with key stakeholders across Alaska (summer, 2005)
Phase II: Representative statewide survey (May – June, 2006)
Phase III: Northwest Alaska climate change summit (May, 2006)
Phase IV: Media content analysis (ongoing)

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