• 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

  • News

    AFD conducts water rescue training on Cook Inlet

    by KTVA Web Staff on Jun 25, 14:37

    The Anchorage Fire Department is warning people not to try and walk from the Anchorage shore across to Fire Island. Authorities say that too often, attempts turn deadly. Anchorage Fireman and their partners from Ted Stevens practiced water rescues Saturday afternoon. They were working with jet skis and a boat. AFD says in the summer, […]

  • News

    Columbus Day to be known as Indigenous Peoples day in Alaska

    by Liz Raines on Jun 25, 14:27

    From now on, Columbus Day in Alaska will be known as Indigenous Peoples day. Gov. Bill Walker signed House Bill 78 into law Saturday, in Utquiagvik, the town formerly known as Barrow. The signing took place at Nalukataq, the Inupiaq whaling festival. The setting was particularly symbolic for many there, where the American, Alaska and Inupiat […]

  • Anchorage’s Swayman, Evingson selected in NHL Draft

    by Dave Leval on Jun 25, 14:20

    Jeremy Swayman’s dad grew up a New York Rangers’ fan. Looks like he will have to root for another “Original Six” team. The Boston Bruins selected Jeremy in the fourth round of Saturday’s NHL Draft. The 18-year-old Anchorage native spent the last two seasons as a goalie with the Sioux Falls Stampede in the United […]

  • Sports

    Musher Travis Beals allowed to compete in 2018 Iditarod

    by KTVA Web Staff on Jun 25, 13:49

    Domestic violence is a big problem in Alaska, and this year, the issue made headlines when it became a focus of the last great race. A musher had to sit out of the Iditarod due to domestic violence charges against him. But now, musher Travis Beals could be back on the trail next March. Beals […]

  • News

    Brown bear mauls cyclist on JBER

    by KTVA Web Staff on Jun 25, 12:43

    The Alaska Department of Fish and Game says a pair of cyclists encountered a bear on JBER Saturday morning. Authorities say the pair came across a brown bear with cubs while cycling on a main gravel road near Clunie Lake. The cyclists used bear spray to fend off the sow, but one cyclist was “knocked […]

  • Statue stands in honor of Iditarod founder

    by Dave Leval on Jun 24, 22:21

    He already has a school named after him, now, there’s another way to honor the man known as the “father of the Iditarod.” It took Palmer artist Pat Garley took roughly 18 months to complete the “Joe Redington, Senior on the Trail” statue that sits outside Redington Junior-Senior High School. The part of Redington weighs […]

  • Rookie musher first to sign up for 2018 Iditarod

    by Dave Leval on Jun 24, 22:19

    Shaynee Traska has what she needs as she prepares for the biggest challenge of her athletic career. The Yukon Quest 300 veteran from Two Rivers wants to play with the big dogs. Traska is the first person to sign up for next year’s Iditarod. “Very surprised, being a big Iditarod sign up day, I thought […]

  • News

    Pride Fest celebrates 40 years in Anchorage

    by Heather Hintze on Jun 24, 18:04

    Hundreds of people turned out in downtown Anchorage for the 40th annual Pride Fest. Mo Haddock and Callene Monasmith set their lawn chairs up early to get a front for the parade. “It’s a lot of fun. We like to people watch anyway but today is very fulfilling. Very heartwarming to see so many people […]