We Have A Right to Snow and Ice

One degree is the difference between ice and water. Thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit is the magic number. For the people who live in villages on the Bering and Chukchi seas in Alaska, the difference is life-threatening.

Just south of the Arctic Ocean, these northern seas separate Alaska from Russia and freeze during winter. Blanketing millions of miles, sea ice forms when the water temperature dips below freezing. Fastening to the coast, the ice creates a seawall protecting villages from storm surges and flooding. September and October were traditionally the months when the Bering and Chukchi seas began to freeze for the winter. But now these seas may not freeze until December or later.

Increasing temperatures are transforming the Arctic landscape. In October 2015, the monthly mean temperature in Alaska was 37.5 degrees Fahrenheit, a significant 5.5 degrees Fahrenheit above the normal temperature – 32 degrees Fahrenheit. October’s temperatures were not an anomaly. According to NOAA, eight of the ten months in 2015 are the warmest on record – 1.55 degrees above the 20th century average. In Alaska, 2014 was the hottest year on record in many communities across the state. Ice and snow, iconic elements of the land and sea in the Arctic, are disappearing. Arctic Ocean sea ice has decreased by 36 per cent in the last three decades. This extraordinary melting of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean contributes to the late freezing of the Bering and Chukchi seas.

Loss of sea ice causes coastal villages to be exposed and vulnerable when storms occur. Autumn is the time of year when the lack of ice can be terrifying and extremely dangerous. Typhoons do not occur in Alaska, but typhoon strength winds batter Alaska’s west coast. In 2014, super typhoon —> Read More