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New UAF climate report highlights rapidly changing Alaska ecosystems

The state of Alaska is unquestionably a travel destination where the subject of responsible tourism and hospitality makes a difference. Stories looking at Alaska is an area of interest. Driven by a fame as an attractive destination, travel specialists are interested in Alaskan holidays.

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Going To Alaska, the Last Frontier



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New UAF climate report highlights rapidly changing Alaska ecosystems

was written by Kavitha George, KMXT – Kodiak , 2019-10-24 23:17:53

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Bering Sea storms battered Port Heiden’s coast in October 2017. (Photo courtesy of Jaclyn Christensen)

Alaska has been breaking so many climate records over the last five years, it suggests the state has crossed a threshold into increasingly rapid ecosystem changes. That’s according to a new report by Rick Thoman and John Walsh, scientists at the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

“When you cross these thresholds, some of which we don’t know what they are until they happen, that you get these very rapid changes,” Thoman said in an interview on Wednesday.

Some of the climate records Alaska has broken over the last five years. (Graph by Rick Thoman, Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy)

The report highlights increasingly intense wildfires in the west, rapidly declining sea ice and warming winter temperatures. But there are more specific measures of climate change too. The year 2019 saw the earliest ever ice breakup on the Tanana River. Southeast rainforests have experienced multi-year drought. Tundra on the North Slope is greening, and widespread algal blooms have been showing up in warming coastal waters.

As the report points out, all of these have significant impacts on Alaska communities, as whole villages are forced to migrate due to erosion, subsistence resources become more unreliable and state agencies are forced to adapt regulations.

Thoman said the effects of climate change in northern latitudes are more apparent than in the Lower 48, a phenomenon called “Arctic amplification.”

“That is very largely, the result of changes in sea ice,” he said. “Also changes in snow cover on land over most of the high latitudes.”

It’s basically a worsening cycle. Shorter sea ice and snow seasons mean there’s less ice and snow to cool the air and the land, so the impacts of warming trends are more apparent. And Thoman says the extra water vapor in the air — a result of the warming atmosphere — acts like a greenhouse gas to trap in heat.

Even within Alaska, the effects of climate change are varied, Thoman says.

“In places like Southeast, especially southern Southeast, temperatures are responding much closer to what we’re seeing in Washington state, for instance, as opposed to on the North Slope where the where sea ice changes are so dominant, temperatures are warming almost three times the rate that they are in southern Southeast,” he said.

Thoman and Walsh’s report also talks about how Alaska communities are responding to the changes. So far many of the plans are mitigation strategies, but Thoman says that’s not really enough.

“Most of them are how do we protect our community when some bad weather event happens,” he said. “But we are seeing more and more [communities] start to address the bigger issues, understanding that this is a global problem. It’s not going to be solved by one community not doing plastic bags at the store anymore.”

The climate report used published data from NOAA and climate science researchers. Thoman says they’re hoping to make this report one in a series covering the impacts of the trends on communities and expectations for the future.

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A Vacation In Alaska

One thing we’ve discovered is that the more interesting material does not come from sweeping esoteric investigation but detailed reviews showing individuals and small communities. However, ironically it is sometimes the largest organizations that provide the more interesting and truthful narratives. Not surprisingly there is also a place for tourism statistical data or policy assessment. Content about traveling to Alaska such as New UAF climate report highlights rapidly changing Alaska ecosystems assist us to discover the broad potential of sustainable tourism.

Irrespective of whether it is a product of influencers or common movements generally consumers prefer sustainable tourism and would like to be responsible travelers. Alaska is a region where responsible hospitality and travel is essential.

Regarded as appropriate must see attractions for visitors exploring Alaska is

Chugach National Forest. Only one third as big as Tongass National Forest, in Southeast Alaska, Chugach is still the second-largest national forest in the nation and an impressive combination of forests, rivers, lakes, mountains and glaciers. Roughly the size of New Hampshire, Chugach features a geographic variety that’s truly unique amongst national forests. The 5,940,000-acre forest is spread out across three distinct landscapes, stretching from the Kenai Peninsula east across Prince William Sound to encompass the Gulf Coast bordering the Copper River Delta, then east from there as far as the Bering Glacier. Wildlife is without question abundant particularly for all who take the time to hike clear of the roadways and highways. Black and brown bear occupy the majority of of the forest, foraging on open tundra slopes and in intertidal zones. In late summer, bears may very well be viewed feeding on spawned-out salmon along streams and rivers. Record setting moose inhabit the Kenai Peninsula and the Copper River Delta. Dall sheep sometimes appear on Kenai Peninsula mountainsides, mountain goats tend to be found on steep hillsides along Prince William Sound, the Copper River Delta and sometimes above Portage Valley. Boaters and kayakers on Prince William Sound often see Dall porpoises, harbor seals, sea otters, sea lions, Orcas and humpback whales. More than 214 species of resident and migratory birds use Chugach National Forest. Seabirds, like blacklegged kittiwakes, nest in sea cliff colonies by the thousands. Ptarmigan scurry about alpine tundra, bald eagles perch on coastline snags and Steller’s jays forage around the underbrush. The Copper River Delta protects one of the largest known concentrations of nesting trumpeter swans within North America together with the total population of dusky Canada geese. Nesting waterfowl are joined in spring and autumn by thousands of migrating shorebirds. Chugach provides a variety of fishing possibilities; anglers can cast for rainbow, lake and cutthroat trout along with Dolly Varden, Arctic grayling and all 5 species of Pacific salmon. Many of the fisheries are easy to get to; roadside lakes and rivers abound offering fishermen a chance to fish without needing a boat. Chugach’s most famous fishery is the red salmon run of the Russian River where fishermen are often standing elbow-to-elbow alongside the river bank in July and July. Chugach is one of the handful of places remaining in the world where glaciers pour out of the mountains and into the seas. When combined with the Bagley Icefield from which it originates, Bering Glacier is actually larger than Switzerland. Columbia Glacier is one of the biggest tidewater glaciers in the world while Portage Glacier and it’s Begich-Boggs Visitor Center is one of the most widely used places to visit for vacationers within Alaska.

a vacation in Chugach National Forest in Alaska

Seeing Chugach National Forest in Alaska