According to U.S. Drought Monitor scientists, southeast Alaska’s wettest area has been in extreme drought for two years. The scientists say this is a severe dryness that has never before been registered in the area.
Alaska’s key rivers are thawing earlier than usual following higher winter and spring temperatures, making it difficult for rural Alaskans who use frozen rivers for travel.
In Shismaref, Alaska, an Iñupiat village that is home to about 600 people, climate change poses more than a physical threat, it threatens the community’s culture. The village is located on Sarichef Island, about a quarter of a mile wide, near the Bering Strait. Sea ice around the island used to protect it from the ocean’s fierce waves. Permafrost created the town’s foundation. But warming temperatures mean the ice is forming later and later, and the permafrost is thawing.
Researchers have published two scientific studies that demonstrate expanding arid temperatures in the American West threaten sensitive water supplies for cities and rural areas.
The federal spending bill signed on March 23 included $15 million to help relocate an Alaskan village that is threatened by rising water due to climate change. The Ninglick River is heading toward Newtok homes and structures at a rate of about 70 feet per year.