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Alaskans experiencing fires, little rain and drought conditions

Precipitation totals this past spring were well below normal over British Columbia, a large part of the NT, Yukon, southeast Alaska, and the western Aleutian Islands, according to Drought.gov’s latest quarterly report.

Added to the sparse spring rainfall, most of Alaska, Yukon, the western portion of the Northwest Territories (NT) and northern British Columbia (BC) were significantly warmer than normal during this past spring, with some areas in Yukon, and the NT recording near-record temperatures.

Alaska’s hot, dry summer has led to extreme measures for the severe drought conditions being experienced by the Native communities of Nanwalek and Seldovia in the Kenai Peninsula, prompting regional officials to declare a disaster declaration. The hot, dry conditions have also been exacerbated by wildfires that are still burning.

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U.S. Drought Monitor


So far, in 2019, about 2.5 million acres have been scorched in the state, according to the Alaska Fire Information website. The season started early, beginning on April 30 with the Oregon Lakes Fire. And while fires typically start to peter out in August, recently there’s been a major uptick.

About 236 of the 663 fires that started this year are still burning in the state, and it’s not clear when they’ll start to fizzle out. Because of the number of fires still burning, the fire season has been extended until the end of September.

Scientists say that it’s likely that the climate crisis not only plays a major part in causing the fires but that the carbon being released as smoke might be making the warming effect worse. And Alaska is warming 2.5 times faster than the rest of the globe, with the consequences creating dire circumstances for the environment, wildlife, and humans.

Firefighters from the Chugach National Forest work to protect the Romig Cabin on Juneau Lake from th...

Firefighters from the Chugach National Forest work to protect the Romig Cabin on Juneau Lake from the Swan Lake Fire near Cooper Landing, Alaska
Chugach National Forest via handout


Even though the city of Anchorage appears to have plenty of water for its citizens, smaller communities that rely on snowmelt and rain like Nanwalek and Seldovia – that usually see nearly 9 inches of rain from June to August – have only received about three inches of rain this year.

This kind of scenario could become more common with climate warming, said Brian Brettschneider, an associate climate researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ International Arctic Research Center. He doesn’t see it happening every single year, “But the probability of this type of summer increases with time as the earth warms,” he said.

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We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of our dear friend Karen Graham, who served as Editor-at-Large at Digital Journal. She was 78 years old. Karen's view of what is happening in our world was colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in humankind's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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