• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
5m 14s

Scientists fear Trump administration will wipe climate change data from government websites

By Johanna Eurich / KYUK 10:05 PM January 25, 2017

Many of the scientists working in Alaska waters are in Anchorage this week to share the results of their research at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium, according to a story published by KYUK Public Media. Usually the gathering is full of the most recent discoveries and the results of large collaborative efforts to understand the implications of our rapidly changing seas. Climate change has taken center stage for some time now, and this year is no exception.

What’s new this year is that many are worried about what will happen to the data they have gathered because of the political environment in Washington, D.C.

News that the Trump administration has shut down White House websites that many depend on to get information about Arctic research and government policy stunned scientists attending the Alaska Marine Science Symposium. As they listened to their colleagues discuss the impact of warming oceans in the Arctic, many wondered if they would still have a job by the end of the year.


All climate change references deleted from WhiteHouse.gov as new chapter begins

In the midst of this, Nicholas Bond, a climatologist with the University of Washington Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, presented an overview of the impact of the huge bodies of warm ocean waters, known as warm blobs, that have developed in the north Pacific Ocean. He showed maps of them moving from the west coast into the Arctic, and showed one hot spot right off Quinhagak on the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta. Bond described how warmed waters changed the chemistry and habitat, producing smaller and less fatty prey for fish. In the case of walleye pollock, research shows that in these warmer seas, older and bigger pollock were supplementing the lower fat content of the krill they prey on by eating younger pollock.

Chairman Fran Ulmer presents at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium. Courtesy US Arctic Research Council/Facebook

“There may be a lot of pollock that are hatched, but they get the one-two-punch of both having less favorable prey to consume, and then they are getting preyed upon by their aunts and uncles,” Bond said. “And so ultimately in those cold years, [there is] greater survival.”

In his presentation, Bond, who also works with the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, used data from many government researchers from different fields working for a variety of institutions, some sitting in the room. That data was kept on government computers and data archives, and all of it could possibly be targeted by an administration that said it does not see the need to study or respond to climate change.

In her presentation to the conference, Fran Ulmer, who co-chairs the U.S. Arctic Research Commission that was set up by Congress in 1984, reassured people that much of the information gone from the White House websites shut down by President Donald Trump’s team is still available elsewhere.

“All of that information remains on the Arctic.gov website,” Ulmer said. “So it may have disappeared from other websites, but it’s still at Arctic.gov.”

Many scientists attending the symposium worry that shutting down White House websites is just the beginning. They worry about the Arctic data that has been gathered over decades. The New York Times reports that a group of scientists are working to move data from government sites to university and private archives. No small task, as it’s a huge amount of data in many formats. There are indications that some of the data may end up in safe-havens in Canada and overseas.

Most scientists are more comfortable questioning a research presentation to dig out underlying facts and assumptions or talking about how to cooperate and get the most out of shrinking research budgets. They are not trained to engage in a war over data, so it was not surprising to see a politician, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, sound the alarm.

He was introduced as a politician who, at one time, worked in the research community in Antarctica. Instead of the traditional mayoral welcoming speech, Berkowitz followed a day of scientific presentations with a plea for scientists to speak out. He said for policy makers like himself, there are no alternatives to real facts when it comes to making decisions to better cope with what the future brings. He pleaded with the scientists to speak out and enter the political process.

“This time, more than ever, you cannot leave your learning in the laboratory. Individuals here have an ability to affect policy,” Berkowitz said, addressing the crowd. “And if you remain silent in the face of ignorance, that ignorance will breed and fester, and cause future problems for us.”

Ulmer hopes that reason will prevail. She points to the support of Alaska’s congressional delegation and industries ranging from fisheries to shippers and oil companies that rely on research and cooperation in the Arctic.

“So I believe our congressional delegation, as well as our governor and our Legislature and the business interests that exists across the Arctic will continue to see value in the United States participating,” Ulmer said.

Most attending the Arctic Science Symposium are hoping for the best and plan to listen to the latest research and try to figure out how to make their own work better and more effective at teasing out what is happening in our rapidly changing Arctic seas.

Latest Stories

  • Cougars make Bartlett feel at home with all-inclusive trip

    by Dave Goldman on May 22, 21:58

    They may compete on the field, but in the end, they’re one team. It showed more than ever on senior night. At a recent game while honoring their own, the Service High School girls soccer team also graciously extended a warm welcome to their opponent, Bartlett. But this was nothing new and is four years […]

  • News

    ‘Just get help’: Family of woman killed in boyfriend’s apparent suicide attempt speaks out

    by Daniella Rivera on May 22, 21:52

    It’s been 33 days since 22-year-old Brittany-Mae Haag’s family learned they’ll never see her again. “[Police said] that it was a shot from Victor Sibson, that he shot my daughter,” said Sheila Lopez, Haag’s mother. Lopez spent the majority of the month since her daughter died thinking Haag’s boyfriend of six years, 21-year-old Victor Sibson, killed her […]

  • APD investigating Government Hill shooting

    by KTVA Web Staff on May 22, 21:30

    Anchorage Police say they’re investigating shooting in the Government Hill area. Late-Monday evening, officers were called to the parking lot of a Subway at Hollywood and Vine where they were seen taking photographs of a yellow vehicle. KTVA’s reporter on scene says blood could be seen in the parking lot near the vehicle. After it […]

  • News

    Hiland Mountain plant sale starts Tuesday

    by Lauren Maxwell on May 22, 20:21

    The plant sale at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center is an event that some people wait all year for. Not just the people who come to buy beautiful hanging baskets but the inmates who grow them, as well. The sale has been going on for at least 20 years, according to Superintendent Gloria Johnson. Most of […]

  • Politics

    Alaska House approves measure limiting opioid prescriptions

    by Liz Raines on May 22, 20:14

    On Monday, the Alaska House passed a bill to limit initial opioid prescriptions to a seven-day supply. House Bill 159 is part of a push from Governor Bill Walker’s administration to address the state’s growing opioid epidemic, which Walker declared a disaster in February. While members of the House spent nearly four hours debating the […]

  • Politics

    Sullivan’s town hall highlights senators’ difference on Planned Parenthood funding

    by Heather Hintze on May 22, 20:07

    Senator Dan Sullivan’s (R-Alaska) town hall in Anchorage over the weekend highlighted how he and fellow republican Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) differ on funding for Planned Parenthood. He discussed a variety of topics from fighting opioid abuse to diversifying our economy, but it was the topic of healthcare that really got the crowd engaged. “My […]

  • Weather

    Record rainfall recorded across SE Alaska

    by Melissa Frey on May 22, 17:18

    Significant rain fell across most of Southcentral and Southeast Alaska this weekend as a storm system moved in from the Gulf of Alaska. For Southcentral, this was the wettest day seen in months. Anchorage picked up 0.25 inches of rain on Sunday alone. This was the most rain recorded in Anchorage since late-September of 2016. […]

  • News

    Search underway for 2 overdue boaters

    by KTVA Web Staff on May 22, 17:13

    Late Monday morning, a search began for two overdue boaters in Togiak. The Togiak Village Public Safety Officer contacted Alaska State Police around 11:15 Monday morning to report two overdue boaters. Troopers say Simeon Wassillie and Stephanie Poulsen, both 25, left the village on Saturday in an 18-foot, blue, open hull, 35hp boat and were […]