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Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Homefront Climate News: Direct from Alaska

Metlakatla, Alaska. Photo by Joey Mendolia, Alaska Public Media.

George Harvey

We have been aware for a long time of problems brought on by climate change in Alaska. Buildings have tilted as permafrost supporting them gave way. Heat waves like nothing in history have brought on wildfires. Exploitation of natural resources threatens traditional fisheries.

Florence Carnahan is a Green Energy Times reader who lived for years in Alaska. With friends and family there, she has maintained ties, including subscriptions to media. She has shared links to online news that she thought others might find interesting. I think they will; I found them fascinating.

The city of Akhioks, which sits at the southern end of Kodiak Island, has a population of 71. It is not tied to the island’s power grid, and has been dependent on diesel power. It is an old system that typically fails about twice per week, often for many hours, and the electricity costs 80¢ per kilowatt hour (kWh) (http://bit.ly/GET-AK-1).

The North Slope is the northernmost part of the State, and includes all the Arctic shore. It is not a place where people are accustomed to growing vegetables. A one-pound cabbage can cost $10. A local woman has been developing vegetable agriculture using “tall tunnels,” a term used for hoop-style greenhouses (http://bit.ly/GET-AK-2).

Kongiginak is a city of about 439 people near the Bering Sea. It is installing a lithium-ion battery, which will make it possible to run over half its electric and heating needs from wind energy. Other communities are doing similar things with both wind and solar power (http://bit.ly/GET-AK-3).

The city of Ambler, with a population of 258, is in north-western Alaska, about 45 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Its approach to cutting down dependence on diesel oil is to install cold-climate heat pumps, powered by solar PV systems. If that sounds like it is bit much for a place that cold, where the sun doesn’t shine in the depths of winter, take this into account: It is cold in the summer, too. The heat pumps will be of value just about whenever the sun shines (http://bit.ly/GET-AK-4).

The Swan Lake Fire. Photo by Kale Casey, Alaska Division of Forestry.

Alaska has had serious climate change problems. One of these is a combination of high temperatures and drought that has led to fires. Another is that it is raining where the permafrost is melting, leading to more rapid and destructive changes. In some places, it is even raining in the winter. The University of Alaska has a research project to look into these problems (http://bit.ly/GET-AK-5).

Metlakatla, with a population of about 2,500, is in the southernmost part of the Alaska Panhandle. It got about 80 to 90 inches of rain this year. While that may seem like a lot, it isn’t. The average for the area is about 110 inches, so even with that much rain, the area is in a drought. The salmon are not running normally, which has effects on the economy. Hydroelectric power is threatened. And the local drinking water, which has historically been of wonderful quality, has had to be conserved (http://bit.ly/GET-AK-6).

For those who want to see more, Carnahan suggests circletocircle.blog, which has a category for Alaska, where you can keep up to date. Recent entries include a time-lapse sequence showing sunrise to sunset, in three hours and forty minutes reduced to a minute and a quarter, in which the sun, at noon, is barely above the horizon. Another recent post has to do with cancellation of cod fishing for 2020 because of low stocks, which can be blamed on an ocean system, called “the blob,” with temperatures that are higher than normal. And there is much more to satisfy the curiosity. The Alaska category can be visited at circletocircle.blog/category/alaska.

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