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Glbl Wrmg Alaska: continues to thaw
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Sandhills North Carolina

    Alaska: continues to thaw

    Warming in the north continues as predicted

    Just outside my window here at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, workers are drilling into the asphalt of a parking lot using a truck-mounted rig. They twist a hollow bit 25 feet into the ground and pull up hard, clear evidence of why the blacktop is sinking.

    A few days ago, John Walsh gave a talk a few hundred steps from that parking lot. Walsh has spent 17 years in Fairbanks studying Arctic climate and learning about the latest physical changes in the far north. He is the chief scientist of the International Arctic Research Center, and an expert on global warming as it applies to the Arctic and subarctic.

    Back in the parking lot, an engineer guiding the work watches the drillers hit clear discs of ice, about 7 feet below car level. The ice had been solid for centuries, maybe thousands of years, but the construction of a parking lot in the late 1990s is making it shrink. What used to be spruce trees and an insulating carpet of forest floor is now a layer of warm asphalt.

    Human-assisted or not, thawing permafrost is a slow-motion disaster happening now in most of northern Alaska. Unlike a hurricane or a flood, the loss of permafrost is silent, rarely dramatic, and never fatal. In the back parking lot, university secretaries and grounds crew workers will steer into different parking spaces, and go on with their days.

    Even though they are dramatic in scale, the northern changes John Walsh described have the same subtlety. They happen far from where most people live and have not yet resulted in an emergency for most of the world's billions.

    Frozen ground underlying the North Slope of Alaska is warming; much of it may thaw by the end of the century. (Photo by Ned Rozell)
    Frozen ground underlying the North Slope of Alaska is warming; much of it may thaw by the end of the century. (Photo by Ned Rozell)
    For example, sea ice was just not there in the Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean this spring.

    "That was new territory for open water," Walsh said.

    In the recent history of Earth, blue water on the northern oceans in early spring was an event worthy of more than a few minutes of Twitter's attention. But few people heard that ocean lapping outside Point Hope and Utqiagvik. Lack of reflective sea ice floating on the northern oceans might help nurture 30-inch rainfalls in Houston, Texas, but that connection is hard to prove.

    There is also a confusing normalcy that interrupts the global warming narrative. Northern temperature trends that have climbed upward since the mid-1970s are indisputable, but have been skewed by what Walsh and other scientists call "internal variability." A remembered example is January 2012, when the Fairbanks average daily temperature was -26.9 F, 19 degrees colder than the long-term average.

    Cold months make people think things are the same as they always were, but "the dice are loaded toward the extremes that go with warming," Walsh said. Those daily dramas include more rain in wintertime, less and thinner sea ice, shorter winters, and flash floods that wash out Alaska highways.

    The ice that coated and broke spruce trees in my yard after a January 2018 rainfall is hard to pin on carbon levels in the atmosphere. But repeat enough unusual events and people may equate historic levels of carbon dioxide to weird, sometimes threatening conditions.

    "One of the ironies is that it takes a disaster to wake people up," Walsh said, noting that climate researchers in Canada got a funding bump after a wildfire flashed through Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada, in 2016.

    At the end of his lecture, Walsh received a common, difficult question: We believe what you are saying, now what can we do about it?

    The parking lot might be repaired if workers dug a swimming-pool sized hole to remove all the frozen soil and then replaced it with gravel. Similar repairs will probably cost northerners millions in the years to come.

    And that's just the Band-Aid. Reducing the carbon dioxide that is warming the planet takes a worldwide effort. Walsh believes it starts from the bottom up, with people acting to reduce their own carbon emissions. He sees his job as spreading the word of what professionals are observing in the north and what it means for our future.

    "I tend to look at creating awareness, using our science for a purpose," he said.
    Attached Images

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Interior Alaska
    Well, the GSM may fix that issue.
    Lake Colleen in Deadhorse is still frozen over as of Thursday when I flew out if Deadhorse. There was water around the edges but it is normally clear of ice by this time of the year and we have not seen mosquitoes yet up there. Been too cold.
    Seeing very few Snow Buntings, theres no bugs for them to eat. This years Geese and Duck hatch is running late by about 3 weeks if my memory serves me right.
    Will they mature enough to fly out by freeze up? Remains to be seen.

  3. #3
    So, we're now using cores drilled beneath black asphalt parking lots to "prove" global warming? Damn...


  4. #4
    Must be near to the end of the global warming lies. For them to rely on tiny changes in urban heat islands.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    The Last Frontier
    Quote Originally Posted by summerthyme View Post
    So, we're now using cores drilled beneath black asphalt parking lots to "prove" global warming? Damn...

    Exactly this, Summerthyme! You are spot on. My sister used to live in Point Hope, now in North Pole and there has really been little significant change in her experience of winter. (In fact, North Pole and Fairbanks folks are rooting for global warming.) This is yet another study slanted against normal and usual weather differences seen and experienced - my sister teaches in North Pole and has had opportunity to see research sites that show permafrost hasn't changed near as much away from the 'heat sinks' of the 21st century.
    All that is gold does not glitter....


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