Seventy degree temperatures in Alaska in March. Sockeye salmon swarming to Alaska rivers thinking May is June. Glaciers fleeing the coast to search for mountain cold.
Get out the beach umbrellas. The 49th state – once derided as “Seward’s Icebox” – appears to be morphing into Californaska. Or is that Alaskafornia?
At least this is the impression one might get from reading the website of the Environmental Defense Fund.
“On a recent flight to Anchorage, Alaska, a man in the seat next to mine mentioned that the city only had two ‘bad’ days of winter this year. Temperatures had hit a remarkable 70 degrees in March,” Kate Zerrenner writes at EDF.org.
“That was just the start. The following day, a boat captain noted that red salmon had arrived three weeks earlier than normal….And just like in Texas, climate change is hitting vulnerable populations in Alaska harder than most.”
Zerrenner leads EDF’s Texas and “national energy-water nexus efforts”, according to her bio.
She flew to Anchorage on a sky-polluting jet just to witness the Alaska global-warming carnage first hand and took a Resurrection Bay tour on a hydrocarbon-gobbling cruise ship.
“Before I left for Alaska, I had jokingly referred to it as the ‘melting glacier tour.’ But it wasn’t so funny when I saw the evidence: This magnificent natural formation is receding rapidly.
“With increasing average annual temperatures between the 1950s and 1990s, Bear Glacier retreated about one mile, creating a lagoon. Then, between 2000 and 2007, it retreated an additional two miles, releasing floating icebergs into the lagoon,” she writes.
“Making matters worse, in 2014, an outburst flood made the lagoon overflow into nearby Resurrection Bay. All this is having a direct impact on people living in Alaska.”
A direct impact on Alaskans? Really?
Actually, the Bear Glacier outburst had no impact on anyone. It sent a small wave rippling across a part of Resurrection Bay where it is not uncommon to see 5- to 6-foot seas.
And it was not 70 degrees in Alaska in March. It did hit 52 in Anchorage, the state’s largest city on March 31. And it got up to 58 on the same day in the state capital in Juneau in the Southeast Panhandle. But it didn’t hit 70 in either community until May.
“….Over the course of my trip, several people told me things like, ‘The last few winters have been the warmest I can remember,'” Zerrenner wrote. People probably did tell her that, but memories are notoriously fallible.
Winters were always warmer, and they were always colder. They always had more snow, and they always had less snow. They were always wetter, and they were always drier.
This is why it’s always a good idea to check the actual data. The data show that 2014 and 2015 were unusually warm, but 2013 was near the norm since a major climate change took place in Alaska in the mid-1970s. And 2012 was unusually cold for this Alaska-warm period.
The Alaska Climate Research Center says “the period 1949 to 1975 was substantially colder than the period from 1977 to 2014, however since 1977 little additional warming has occurred in Alaska with the exception of Barrow and a few other locations. The step-wise shift appearing in the temperature data in 1976 corresponds to a phase shift of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation from a negative phase to a positive phase.”
As charted by the Climate Center, the warm-phase of the PDO from 1976 to present looks a lot like a mirror image of the cold phase of the PDO from 1949 to 1975. But the last two winters were unusually warm with some areas of the state at 8 to 9 degrees above the 67-year average.
That could mean something significant, or it could be an anomaly.
But one thing is for sure. It isn’t 70 in March yet. Alaskans still have to fly south to Seattle or further to experience that sort of warmth in what the rest of the world thinks of as “spring.”
And the salmon aren’t showing up three weeks early. It was more like four days this year, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game counts.
The sky might be lowering under the weight of all the carbon dioxide in the air, but it’s not falling. At least not yet.