Tag: Alaska

Offshore fracking threatens beluga whales, group claims

A pod of Beluga whales. PHOTO COURTESY NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES SERVICE.
A pod of Beluga whales. Photo courtesy NMFS.

Conservation advocates question plan for expanded fracking in Alaska’s Cook Inlet

Staff Report

Environmental advocates are warning that a plan to expand offshore fracking in Alaska’s Cook Inlet threatens a local population of beluga whales, considered to be among the most endangered whales in the world.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, Blue Crest Energy wants to drill multiple new wells and conduct the first large, multistage offshore fracking ever done in the environmentally sensitive inlet. The privately held company needs a permit from the NMFS to start the fracking in the inlet. Continue reading “Offshore fracking threatens beluga whales, group claims”

Climate: USGS measures Alaska land carbon stock

tundra
How will Arctic tundra respond to climate change? @bberwyn photo.

New assessment finds increased plant growth will absorb more carbon through end of the century

Staff Report

With temperatures in the Arctic warming far faster than the global average, scientists have been trying to quantify how climate change will affect the carbon cycle.

A new study led by U.S. Geological Survey and University of Alaska at Fairbanks scientists took a close look at the question in Alaska — an effort to get some baseline data on the carbon cycle against which to measure future changes.

Alaska makes up about 18 percent of the total U.S. land area but accounts for about 35 percent of the total carbon stock. The future of that carbon has big implications for global climate. If it’s released quickly, it could drive up global temperatures more than expected. And the carbon stored in high latitude ecosystems is considered to be vulnerable to climate change because of global warming. Continue reading “Climate: USGS measures Alaska land carbon stock”

Global warming is greening up the far north

Alaska greening climate change
NASA scientists have detailed a widespread greening trend across Alaska and northern Canada in a new study. Photo courtesy NASA/Ross Nelson.

New NASA study takes detailed look at increased vegetation growth in Alaska and Canada

Staff Report

After taking a close look at 87,000 satellite images, NASA scientists say the northern parts of Canada and Alaska are getting greener. Shrubs are sprouting in grassy tundra zones and shrubs are growing bigger and denser — changes that could have impacts on regional water, energy and carbon cycles.

The new NASA study adds more detail to previous research that reached similar conclusions and could help inform climate scientists about how the changes will affect global temperatures. The study covered the timespan between 1984 and 2012. The images came from the joint NASA/U.S. Geological Survey Landsat program, which provides the longest continuous space-based record of Earth’s land vegetation in existence. Continue reading “Global warming is greening up the far north”

Federal appeals court upholds polar bear habitat protection

 Eric Regehr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Eric Regehr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Panel says designation was based on ‘a thorough evaluation of the available science’

By Bob Berwyn

Acknowledging that polar bear populations in Alaska have been declining for many years, a federal appeals court this week reinstated critical habitat protections across more than 120 million acres — more than 95 percent of it sea ice — in the Alaskan Arctic.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling reverses a 2013 lower court decision that shot down the habitat designation, finding that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designation met all required legal standards. Continue reading “Federal appeals court upholds polar bear habitat protection”

USGS study projects Alaska permafrost losses

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A new USGS study projects a significant permafrost meltdown in Alaska by 2100.

Near-surface permafrost areas could shrink by 16-24 percent

Staff Report

Global warming is likely to take a big bite out of Alaska’s permafrost the next few decades, U.S. Geological Survey researchers said after analyzing new satellite data.

The maps suggest that the near-surface permafrost that presently underlies 38 percent of boreal and arctic Alaska would be reduced by 16 to 24 percent by the end of the 21st century under widely accepted climate scenarios. Permafrost declines are more likely in central Alaska than northern Alaska. Continue reading “USGS study projects Alaska permafrost losses”

Study finds evidence of prehistoric salmon fishing in Alaska

Spring-run Chinook salmon, photographed in Butte Creek, upstream from Centerville, Calif., may become extinct in the future due to warming waters. (Allen Harthorn, Friends of Butte Creek/photo) .
Salmon may have been a key food source for early North Americans. Photo courtesy USGS.

‘We now know that salmon have been consumed by North American humans at least 11,500 years ago …’

Staff Report

Digging deep into the remains of an ancient kitchen, archaeologists say that early residents of North America likely fished for salmon starting at the end of the last ice age, just as they started colonizing the continent.

The study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the earliest known evidence that Ice Age humans in North America used salmon as a food source and shows that those settlers were not just big game hunters. Continue reading “Study finds evidence of prehistoric salmon fishing in Alaska”

Doing the climate-change two-step in Alaska

 

If only speeches could stop global warming …

FRISCO — Secretary of State John Kerry probably expressed what many people feel about climate change when he took to the podium at the GLACIER conference in Alaska Monday, describing the helplessness that can take hold when faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem.

“I have struggled for years, as I’m sure many of you have, with how you adequately take an issue of this magnitude, this kind of challenge, and put it in terms that average folks can really grab onto, where it isn’t so intimidating,” Kerry said.

But that can’t be an excuse to do nothing, Kerry continued, describing the Alaska conference as an important stepping stone on the way to critical climate talk in Paris coming up in December.

“Everywhere I travel, leaders and average folks talk to me about the impacts of climate change and what they feel and see is happening to their lives in one particular part of the world or another. And the Arctic is so important for us to visit and understand because the Arctic is in many ways a thermostat … and yet we already see is having a profound impact on the rest of the planet,” he said.

Kerry also referred to concerns about melting permafrost, which could release heat-trapping gases in such great volumes that it could trigger runaway global warming far beyond and scenario currently represented in climate models.

“The bottom line is that climate is not a distant threat for our children and their children to worry about. It is now. It is happening now. And I think anybody running for any high office in any nation in the word should come to Alaska or to any other place where it is happening and inform themselves about this. It is a seismic challenge that is affecting millions of people today,” Kerry said, describing how Alaska is a poster child for those challenges.

“And unless the global community comes together to address this challenge, the dramatic climate impacts that we’re seeing in this part of the world will be a harbinger for every part of the world,” he said.