Federal Climate Report Says Alaska Could See Big Changes
Glaciers in Alaska and British Columbia are expected to keep shrinking this century, contributing to at least 20 percent of rising global sea levels. The report says those levels will likely be from 1 to 4 feet higher by 2100.
Although precipitation is anticipated to increase in the decades ahead, the report also anticipates wildfire activity in Alaska to double or triple this century. That’s because the added rain will increase the amount of growth, while higher temperatures will contribute to drying, Trainor said.
The report also projects the loss of permafrost, particularly south of the Brooks Range, with the extent tied to levels of greenhouse gas emissions this century. It’s considered a potent trend, because those warming soils release gases that include methane, considered one of the most significant gases.
With carbon dioxide levels increasing, northern regions are also expected to be disproportionately affected by oceans gradually growing more acidic.
Trainor said acidification has already reached a “critical threshold” for some species in shallow Alaskan waters. Erosion of oyster and crab shells, for example, is a byproduct of growing acidity. While salmon species seem to have a larger ice-free range, some non-native fish are also moving to the warmer waters.
“There will be both winners and losers, as far as we can tell so far,” Trainor said.
The report said the cumulative effects of climate change will most significantly impact Native communities, since they rely on wildlife abundance and often live in areas affected by coastal erosion.