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Heavy storms set to hit Northwest Arctic will likely disrupt fragile sea ice
was written by Wesley Early, KOTZ – Kotzebue , 2019-11-25 21:39:50
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Large snow storms are set to hit Western Alaska this week. While the storms are nothing new for this time of year, they are likely to disrupt sea ice in the region, which is forming at a much slower rate due to an abnormally warm year.
By the end of November in decades past, there was a thick layer of traversable ice in the Chukchi Sea. This year, there’s a lot of open water in its place. But Rick Thoman with the International Arctic Research Center says that sea ice had better conditions to grow this November than in the last few years.
“We’ve been in a comparatively cold pattern, lots of east and northeast winds,” Thoman said. “And that’s allowed sea ice to grow better than we have had in several of the recent autumns.”
However, large winter storms are set to hit the Chukchi and Northwest Bering Seas this week, and Thoman says that means the streak of good sea ice conditions is coming to an end.
Thoman says that storms like these are typical for this time of year. While ice is normally strong enough to withstand them, this year’s ice conditions are a little slimmer.
“The ice, of course, is new, so it’s relatively thin,” Thoman said. “It’s not like spring ice. Much more susceptible to disruption by these storms that there’s nothing new in them per se, but they’re acting on a lot of water instead of, historically, a lot of ice.”
Thoman says that while lower sea ice conditions pose safety and hunting risks, they can also lead to an overall temperature increase for the region. He says that Kotzebue average temperatures have risen by about ten degrees in the last few decades.
“That is tied to what we had in the spring, the unprecedented early loss of ice in Kotzebue Sound and the exceptionally warm water temperatures in the Sound over the summer,” Thoman said.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for the Northwest Arctic from Monday night to Wednesday morning, highlighting heavy blowing snow and potential power line damage. Kotzebue is forecast to get 3 to 5 inches of snow, with surrounding villages getting up to 13 inches.
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Whether or not it comes from influencers or societal sensibilities by and large most people opt for sustainable tourism and want to be responsible travelers. Alaska is a area in which sustainable travel is mandatory.
A consensus among experts lists strongly recommended attractions for almost everyone vacationing in Alaska is
Tongass National Forest. The Tongass is the biggest national forest within the United States. It obtained its name from the Tongass Clan of the Tlingit native people and dates back to 1902 when President Theodore Roosevelt created the Alexander Archipelago Forest Reserve. In 1908 the forest was renamed and expanded and these days the 16.9 million-acre Tongass National Forest extends from the Pacific to the great inland ice fields that edge British Columbia and from the southern tip of Prince of Wales Island to Malaspina Glacier five hundred miles to the north. About 80 % of Southeast Alaska is in Tongass and with it’s thousands of islands, fjords and bays the national forest has 11,000 miles of coastline. Tongass’ huge coastal rain forest consists of towering hemlock, spruce and red and yellow cedar. The undergrowth below thehuge conifers is made up of young evergreens and shrubs such as devil’s club, blueberry and huckleberry. Moss and ferns cover the ground, and lichens adorn many trees and rocks.
Wildlife is abundant throughout Tongass. Sitka blacktail deer and it’s 2 main predators, wolf and brown bear, are located here. Black bear are common as well as mountain goats and some moose. Marine mammals observed along the coast line consist of Dall and harbor porpoises, seals and humpback, minke and orca whales and an expanding population of sea otters. The marine environments teem with fish such as halibut and all 5 species of Pacific salmon. More bald eagles stay in this area than in any other place in the world. Though home to the world’s main temperate rain forest, practically fifty percent of Tongass is covered by ice, water, wetlands and rock. It’s most recognized ice floe is the Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska’s “Drive-in glacier” because it is just 13 miles from downtown Juneau along a paved road. A boat ride through Petersburg or Wrangell brings anyone near the face of LeConte Glacier, the southernmost tidewater glacier on the continent. Only thirty miles north of Yakutat is Hubbard Glacier, the longest tidewater glacier in the world and very easily Alaska’s most energetic. The 76-mile-long glacier has crossed Russell Fjord several times, lately in 2008. The rip tides and currents that flow in front of the 8-mile-wide glacier are so strong they lead to Hubbard to calve nearly constantly. The Tongass features nineteen wilderness areas, including the 545-sq-mile Russell Fjord Wilderness, in addition to Admiralty Island National Monument and Misty Fiords National Monument. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve and the general area surrounding Haines and Skagway are not part of the national forest.