Alaska's changing environment: documenting Alaska's physical and biological changes through observations
Document Type: Report
Author(s): Richard L. Thoman Jr.; John E. Walsh
Editor(s): Heather McFarland
Publication Year: 2019

Cataloging Information

  • fire management
  • fire season
  • temperature
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: September 18, 2019
FRAMES Record Number: 58627


Alaska has recently experienced profound environmental change related to extreme weather events and deviations from the historical climate. Sustained warmth, sea ice loss, coastal flooding, river flooding, and major ecosystem changes have impacted the daily lives of Alaskans around the state. Temperatures have been consistently warmer than at any time in the past century. This warming varies greatly across the state, with northern and western regions warming at twice the rate of southeastern Alaska. The growing season has increased substantially in most areas, and the snow cover season has shortened. Precipitation overall has increased, and like temperature, the changes vary regionally. The ocean around Alaska is now regularly warmer than at any time in the past 150 years, affecting everything from algae to fisheries and human health. Coastal flooding during the autumn storm season has occurred on the Bering Sea coast throughout history, but recent winters have brought record low ice, which in the past has served as a buffer to big Bering Sea storms. This has resulted in out-of-season flooding occurring in places expecting stable sea ice. Across the following pages we have compiled observations through August 2019 about the major changes currently affecting Alaska's physical and biological systems. We focus on the past five years, though we also provide information from earlier decades for historical context. This effort is by no means comprehensive, but serves to highlight the monumental shifts occurring in our state. We welcome additional contributions to future iterations of this product. The International Arctic Research Center and the University of Alaska Fairbanks are providing individuals, Alaska businesses, communities, government, and others with the resources needed to better assess impacts and develop adaption strategies.

Thoman, Richard L.; Walsh, John E. 2019. Alaska's changing environment: documenting Alaska's physical and biological changes through observations. McFarland, Heather (ed.). Fairbanks, AK: International Arctic Research Center. 16 p.