NCA Education Resources for the Alaska Region
"Alaska has warmed twice as fast as the rest of the nation, bringing widespread impacts. Sea ice is rapidly receding and glaciers are shrinking. Thawing permafrost is leading to more wildfire, and affecting infrastructure and wildlife habitat. Rising ocean temperatures and acidification will alter valuable marine fisheries. The cumulative effects of climate change in Alaska strongly affect Native communities, which are vulnerable to these rapid changes but have a deep cultural history of adapting to change." National Climate Assessment, 2014
The National Climate Assessment summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future. This report collects, integrates, and assesses observations and research from around the country, helping us to see what is actually happening and understand what it means for our lives, our livelihoods, and our future. It is important that these findings and response options be shared broadly to inform citizens and communities across our nation. Climate change presents a major challenge for society. This report advances our understanding of that challenge and the need for the American people to prepare for and respond to its far-reaching implications.
The National Climate Assessment regional resources for educators is written, edited, and moderated by each team of contributors. Posts reflect the views of the team themselves and not necessarily Climate.gov, NOAA, or USGCRP.
Through its Our Changing Climate section and Climate Science Supplement sections, the NCA contains information that will help educators and students gain a deeper understanding of climate science. This content will support the integration of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) into science education. The NGSS also asks educators to raise the teaching of engineering design to the same level as scientific inquiry. In the Adaptation and Infrastructure sections of the NCA, educators can find information on climate-related problems and solutions, including those that draw on engineering design. The Decision Support section provides information on how decision makers across the country are using climate information to prepare for the impacts of climate change that affect where they work and live.
This webpage features key figures, related resources, and lesson plans, videos and visualizations reviewed by CLEAN for all the NCA key messages for the region. The page contains information that will help educators and students gain a deeper understanding of climate science and the implications of climate variability and climate change for Alaska region.
NCA Alaska Region Report and Highlights
Estado de Alaska (Spanish translation)
NCA Key Message 1: Disappearing Sea Ice
Arctic summer sea ice is receding faster than previously projected and is expected to virtually disappear before mid-century. This is altering marine ecosystems and leading to greater ship access, offshore development opportunity, and increased community vulnerability to coastal erosion.
1. Guiding Questions
- How does increased melting of Arctic sea ice lead to a self-reinforcing melt cycle? What is the long-term outlook for Arctic sea ice extent?
- What effect does declining sea ice have on Arctic marine traffic and resource development?
- How does reduced sea ice affect the Arctic marine ecosystem? List two species that are affected by declining sea-ice extent. Why are these species especially sensitive to the loss of Arctic sea ice?
- How does sea ice loss affect coastal communities in Alaska? What are some ways the villagers in these areas are addressing these problems?
2. Key figures
Declining Sea Ice Extent
Average September extent of Arctic sea ice in 1980 (second year of satellite record and year of greatest September sea ice extent; outer red boundary), 1998 (about halfway through the time series; outer pink boundary) and 2012 (recent year of record and year of least September sea ice extent; outer white boundary). September is typically the month when sea ice is least extensive because it is at the end of the summer melt cycle. Inset is the complete time series of average September sea ice extent (1979-2013). (Figure source: NSIDC 2012; Data from Fetterer et al. 201324).
Sea Ice Loss Brings Big Changes to Arctic Life
Reductions in sea ice alter food availability for many species from polar bear to walrus, make hunting less safe for Alaska Native hunters, and create more accessibility for Arctic Ocean marine transport, requiring more Coast Guard coverage. (Photo credits: (top left) G. Carleton Ray; (bottom left) Daniel Glick; (right) Patrick Kelley).
Residents in Newtok, Alaska are living with the effects of climate change, including coastal erosion from more severe storms, thawing permafrost, tilting houses, sinking boardwalks, in conjunction with aging fuel tanks and other infrastructure that cannot be replaced because of laws that prevent public investment in flood-prone localities. (Photo credit: F. S. Chapin III).
3. Other Resources
Historical Sea Ice Atlas
This website features an interactive map, downloadable data, and a glossary of common terms used to describe sea ice. Using the interactive map, you can simultaneously view multiple sources of historical sea ice data from the oceans surrounding northern Alaska. Choose a region and time of interest and inspect a map of data collected between the mid-1800s and today, to discover how ice extent and concentration have changed over time.
Sea Ice Index Animation Tool
This visualization presents a collection of sea ice data taken over a period of 34 years. Selected data can be animated to show changes in sea ice extent over time. Data is added by the National Snow and Ice Data Center as it becomes available.
The IceTracker is an inquiry-driven research tool for any student with access to a computer. Teachers can use the IceTracker in guided exercises or let students work on their own to learn about ice dynamics, interannual variability and climate change. The IceTracker facilitates systems understanding by letting students do their own sampling of a fascinating, real-world non-linear dynamical system. They can see how diminished ice cover has resulted in increased ice speed as the floes move more freely with the winds and currents. Running backtracks from the Alaska coast for 2013 vs. 2000 shows a marked decrease in sea ice age, which is important because older ice is thicker. Applications for the public include considering historical conditions as the context for visualizing changing conditions for Arctic wildlife.
Wales Inupiaq Sea Ice Dictionary
The book introduces over 100 indigenous terms for sea ice known in the Alaskan Inupiat community of Wales (Kinigin) that have been collected and explained by local Inupiat boat captain Winton Weyapuk, Jr. (Utuktaaq). The 112 pages dictionary is illustrated by 50 color plates of ice types and icescapes off Wales taken by Weyapuk in 2007 and 17 historical photos of Wales hunters on sea ice in spring 1922 taken by visiting biologist Alfred M. Bailey. It was produced by a team of scholars and Wales Elders for the SIKU ("Sea Ice Knowledge and Use") project during the International Polar Year 2007-2009.
4. Lesson Plans
This multi-activity investigation challenges students to think about how sea ice is changing and the effects of a warming climate on sea level in Alaska. Students begin by viewing a presentation showing a Native Alaskan talking about the importance of ice to his life and his culture. They then view a series of photos and headlines about shrinking sea ice. In Activity 1A: Arctic Sea Ice Data, students graph data on sea ice extent over time. In Activity 1B: Melting Sea Ice, students participate in a lab activity that simulates the melting of sea ice, and create a flip book of images of the change in sea ice extent over time.
A Coastal Arctic Food Web
This lesson plan and worksheet helps students understand the impacts of sea ice loss on an Arctic food web. Includes a hands-on activity where students construct a model of a coastal Arctic food web and use the model to examine how climate change affects the Arctic ecosystem and asks them to project future impacts of sea ice decline.
Impact of a Changing Climate on the Pacific Walrus
In this two-part classroom activity, students explore the effects of long term climate change on Pacific Walrus populations, including the role that sea ice plays in the in the food web, physical conditions of the environment, and the life habits of the walrus. Students begin by learning about the Bering Sea Food Web and then move onto graphing changes in walrus populations. Lesson plan provides multiple opportunities for learning extension.
Bering Sea Expedition
In this multi-day investigation, students use a WebQuest activity to research the effects of melting sea ice in the Bering Sea Ecosystem. The students create research proposals to earn a place on the scientific research vessel Healy, and present their findings and proposals to a "Research Board committee".
Strategic Management of Resources in Times of Change (SMARTIC)
In this role play activity, students build off of an introductory presentation on climate change in the Arctic to devise a strategy to manage climate change impacts on a global scale (the Arctic). After a brief synopsis on current issues and management approaches in the Arctic, students will use information based on the stakeholders and interests they’ve identified in readings done before class, to pinpoint areas of high interest, negotiate conflicts, and develop a sustainable, multi-stakeholder management plan for high priority areas. The net effect on students will be to: (1) understand the complex web of stakeholder interests and scientific issues (2) learn how to devise a strategic plan for a global issue and an area of significant socio-economic, political, and environmental importance.
Grades 9-12, undergrad, graduate
Graphing the Extent of Sea Ice in the Arctic and Antarctic
In this activity, students learn about sea ice extent in both polar regions (Arctic and Antarctic). They start out by forming a hypothesis on the variability of sea ice, testing the hypothesis by graphing real data from a recent* 3-year period to learn about seasonal variations and over a 25-year period to learn about longer-term trends, and finish with a discussion of their results and predictions. *Note that recent data can be accessed via the NSIDC Sea Ice Index.
If the Sea Ice Disappears... How will climate change affect the fertile Bering Sea?
This audio slideshow examines the changes in the ecosystem that will occur to the Arctic due to increasing temperatures and disappearing sea ice.
Faces of Climate Change - Life on the Ice
This is the second of three compelling short videos showcasing the dramatic changes in Alaska's marine ecosystems. This video highlights the marine mammals and birds and how they depend on Arctic sea ice, as well as questions about how these animals will cope in the face of climate change.
Amount of Multi-Year Ice in the Arctic, 1987-2013
The winter ice pack in the Arctic was once dominated by multi-year, thick ice. Today, very little old ice remains. This animation shows maps of sea ice age from 1987 through the end of October 2013. Age class 1 means "first-year ice," which is ice that formed in the most recent winter. The oldest ice (9+) is ice that is more than 9 years old.
NCA Key Message 2: Shrinking Glaciers
Most glaciers in Alaska and British Columbia are shrinking substantially. This trend is expected to continue and has implications for hydropower production, ocean circulation patterns, fisheries, and global sea level rise.
1. Guiding Questions
- What is causing glaciers in Alaska to retreat? What is the outlook for glaciers in the coming decades?
- How does glacier melt affect sea levels? Why are glaciers predicted to be the largest contributor to sea level rise in the next century?
- What are some of the positive ecological effects glaciers can have on the surrounding areas?
- What are the short term and long term effects of glaciers on the energy resource of the area, namely hydroelectric power?
2. Key figures
The Muir Glacier
On the left is a photograph of Muir Glacier in Alaska taken on August 13, 1941; on the right, a photograph taken from the same vantage point on August 31, 2004. Total glacial mass has declined sharply around the globe, adding to sea level rise. (Left photo by glaciologist William O. Field; right photo by geologist Bruce F. Molnia of the United States Geological Survey.)
3. Other Resources
Climate Change Indicators in the US: Glaciers
This interactive webpage from the EPA details glacial decline around the world and in the US, including in Alaska. It provides cumulative mass balance data on two Alaskan glaciers, and describes effects of glacier retreat, including impacts on local streamflow and drinking water supplies as well as linkages to sea level rise.
All About Glaciers
NSIDC’s All About Glaciers is a glacier site with something for everyone, from grade school students to professional glaciologists. It explores nearly all aspects of glaciers, the facts, the data, the science, including a gallery and much more.
4. Lesson Plans
Impacts of Change in Glacier Ice
Through a series of five classroom activities, students explore ways that a changing climate can affect physical and biological conditions in rivers, the ocean, and other aquatic ecosystems. Activity 2A: Changing Landscape asks students to analyze “repeat photographs” (taken from the same vantage point at different times) of Alaska glaciers to observe the effects of retreating glaciers on the landscape. In Activity 2B: Melting Ice, students conduct a simulation to investigate the effect of melting glaciers on sea level. In Activity 2C, Stream Table, students simulate increasing stream flows that result from melting glaciers and observe the effects on the landscape and water quality. In Activity 2D: Transparency/Turbidity students construct a mini Secchi disk to investigate transparency and the effects of increased turbidity from the increased flows as glaciers melt on aquatic and marine ecosystems. Finally, they play a board game in Activity 2E: Glacier Game to review the effects of retreating glaciers and increasing stream flows and erosion on river, coastal, and ocean ecosystems.
Glaciers then and now
In this activity, students compare two photographs (with time spans of 30-100 years between photos) of specific Alaskan glaciers to observe how glaciers have changed over the time interval. Activity is a good kickoff for learning about glaciology - how and why glaciers form, grow and shrink, and their relation to climate change.
Mapping Sea Level Rise
In this activity, students learn the difference between sea ice and glaciers in relation to sea level rise. They will create and explore topographic maps as a means of studying sea level rise and how it will affect Alaska's coastline.
Impacts of Topography on Sea Level Change
This lesson is comprised of three activities (three class periods). Students use web-based animations to explore the impacts of ice melt and changes to sea level. Students are introduced to topographic maps by doing a hands-on activity to model the contours of an island. Students examine the relationship between topography and sea level change by mapping changing shorelines using a topographic map.
Glacial Change at Kenai Fjords National Park
Glacial melt is perhaps one of the more visually obvious effects of our changing climate. This video explores how park staff and scientists at Kenai Fjords National Park seek to better understand current and future glacial change and adapt in the face of an ever-changing park.
Students Measure Changes in Ice and Snow
This short video features the Alaska Lake Ice and Snow Observatory Network (ALISON project), a citizen science program in which 4th and 5th graders help scientists study the relationship between climate change and lake ice and snow conditions.
AK-03 ALASKA: AK-03 Columbia Glacier “Cliff” (Narrated)
A video from the Extreme Ice Survey in which Dr. Tad Pfeffer and photographer Jim Balog discuss the dynamics of the Columbia glacier's retreat in recent years through this time-lapse movie. Key point: glacier size is being reduced not just by glacial melting but due to a shift in glacial dynamics brought on by climate change.
NCA Key Message 3: Thawing Permafrost
Permafrost temperatures in Alaska are rising, a thawing trend that is expected to continue, causing multiple vulnerabilities through drier landscapes, more wildfire, altered wildlife habitat, increased cost of maintaining infrastructure, and the release of heat-trapping gases that increase climate warming.
1. Guiding Questions
- What is permafrost, and how is it affected by climate change?
- Name some of the effects of thawing permafrost on the Alaskan landscape and explain the effects they will have on humans.
- Describe the effect of climate change on Alaska’s lakes and wetlands. How does permafrost influence those effects, and how are they likely to affect ecosystems and local communities?
- What are the connections between permafrost thaw and increasing wildfires? What are some of the effects of wildfire on the ecology of the region?
- Identify the positive feedback loop involving increased levels of greenhouse gasses and thawing permafrost.
2. Key figures
The Big Thaw
Projections for average annual ground temperature at a depth of 3.3 feet over time if emissions of heat-trapping gases continue to grow (higher emissions scenario, A2), and if they are substantially reduced (lower emissions scenario, B1). Blue shades represent areas below freezing at a depth of 3.3 feet, and yellow and red shades represent areas above freezing at that depth, based on the GIPL 1.0 model. (Figure source: Permafrost Lab, Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks).
Mounting Expenses from Permafrost Thawing
Effects of permafrost thaw on houses in interior Alaska (2001, top left), roads in eastern Alaska (1982, top right), and the estimated costs (with and without climate change) of replacing public infrastructure in Alaska, assuming a mid-range emissions scenario (A1B, with some decrease from current emissions growth trends). (Photo credits: (top left) Larry Hinzman; (top right) Joe Moore. Figure source: adapted from Larsen and Goldsmith 200797).
Drying Lakes and Changing Habitat
Progressive drying of lakes in northern forest wetlands in the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. Foreground orange area was once a lake. Mid-ground lake once extended to the shrubs. (Photo credit: May-Le Ng).
3. Other Resources
Changes to Permafrost Over Time
In this multimedia unit, students learn that changes that affect Alaska’s permafrost ecosystems can happen over very long periods of time or very short periods of time. Permafrost can be monitored over time by analyzing geological, archaeological and paleontological evidence. Organisms frozen in permafrost provide information about how old the permafrost is and of the environment when the permafrost formed. Observations of permafrost by indigenous observers from long ago are also presented in this unit.
Alaska Climate Change Adaptation Series: Wildfires
This issue brief details the connections between climate change and increasing wildfires in Alaska. Over the past 50 years, Alaska has warmed at more than twice the rate of the rest of the US. Warmer temperatures have led to longer snow‐free seasons, changes in vegetation, and loss of ice and permafrost, all of which can contribute to longer and more active fire seasons. It is likely that the Alaska boreal forest will experience some dramatic changes over the next century. Learning about these changes and their potential impacts can help guide us in planning for the future.
4. Lesson Plans
Cryospheric Connection to Understanding Climate Change
In this six part online interactive lesson, students explore permafrost, climate change and scientific processes used by scientists, particularly as they relate to Alaska. Lessons simultaneously deliver new scientific content and act as tutorials to train teachers to use free classroom applications, Google Earth, ImageJ, and NASA’s innovative GIOVANNI, to graphically visualize climate data and measure the effects of climate change.Lessons include videos, photographs, diagrams, technology tutorials and clear step-by-step instructions. Each lesson provides a context for why studying each topic is important.
Hot Times in Alaska
In this activity, students are introduced to permafrost and the effect it has on lakes and wetlands. Students are given the opportunity to create and examine samples of frozen soil, and participate in a hands-on activity that explores the effects of frozen soil on water percolation.
Changing Planet: Permafrost Gas Leak
This is a multi-faceted activity that offers students a variety of opportunities to learn about permafrost through an important sink and source of greenhouse gas (methane), about which most students living in lower latitudes know little.
Grades 6-12, undergrad
Permafrost Rap: Music and Climate Change for Village Kids, featuring Tunnel Man
In this series of four videos, Tunnel Man travels thousands of miles by snowmachine. To villages like Shaktoolik (poplation 223), Koyuk (population 299), Holy Cross (population 204), and hundreds of other villages scattered across Alaska. The message that Tunnel Man delivers is about science, but it is also about change. The ground under their villages is changing. Their lives are changing. His message is a message of enthusiasm and a hands-on approach to both science and life. Tunnel Man leaves behind permafrost observatories and, even more importantly, a sense that what happens there matters, that an isolated village is not alone in a warming world. (Grades 3-5)
Losing Permafrost in Alaska
This video and accompanying essay review the impacts of rising surface air temperatures and thawing permafrost on ecosystems, geology, and native populations in Alaska. (Grades 6-12)
This video is accompanied by supporting materials including background essay and discussion questions. The focus is on changes happening to permafrost in the Arctic landscape, with Alaska Native peoples and Western scientists discussing both the causes of thawing and its impact on the ecosystem. The video shows the consequences of erosion, including mudslides and inland lakes being drained of water. An Inuit expresses his uncertainty about the ultimate effect this will have on his community and culture. (Grades 6-12)
In this video, Ronald Daanen and Vladimir Romanovsky from the University of Alaska Fairbanks explain the basics of permafrost, focusing on patterns created by the freezing and re-freezing of high Arctic landscapes and implications of increased thawing on the global climate system.
Fires in Alaska
In this video, Scott Rupp of the University of Alaska and Jennifer Barnes of the National Park Service discuss fire trends in Alaska due to climate change.
NCA Key Message 4: Changing Ocean Temperatures and Chemistry
Current and projected increases in Alaska’s ocean temperatures and changes in ocean chemistry are expected to alter the distribution and productivity of Alaska’s marine fisheries, which lead the U.S. in commercial value.
1. Guiding Questions
- Identify some of the ways invasive species are spreading into the waters around Alaska. What are the effects of these invasive species on the ecology of the area?
- How is habitat extent and quality expected to change for various species? What factors go into these predictions?
- Describe how ocean warming could affect the commercial and subsistence fishing.
- Why are the waters surrounding Alaska more susceptible to ocean acidification? Identify some of the species most affected by ocean acidification. What role do these species play in the Arctic marine ecosystem?
2. Key figures
Shells Dissolve in Acidified Ocean Water
Pteropods, or “sea butterflies,” are eaten by a variety of marine species ranging from tiny krill to salmon to whales. The photos show what happens to a pteropod’s shell in seawater that is too acidic. On the left is a shell from a live pteropod from a region in the Southern Ocean where acidity is not too high.42 The shell on the right is from a pteropod in a region where the water is more acidic. (©Bednaršek et al. 2012; ©Nina Bednaršek)
Ocean Acidification Reduces Size of Clams
The 36-day-old clams in the photos are a single species, Mercenaria mercenaria, grown in the laboratory under varying levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air. CO2 is absorbed from the air by ocean water, acidifying the water and thus reducing the ability of juvenile clams to grow their shells. As seen in the photos, where CO2 levels rise progressively from left to right, 36-day-old clams (measured in microns) grown under elevated CO2 levels are smaller than those grown under lower CO2 levels. The highest CO2 level, about 1500 parts per million (ppm; far right), is higher than most projections for the end of this century but could occur locally in some estuaries. (Figure source: Talmage and Gobler 201043).
3. Other Resources
Marine Invasive Species in Alaska
This 2-page summary details the ways in which invasive species are introduced to Alaskan waters and the potential effects they could have on Alaska’s marine ecosystems and economy. Invasive species can be transported to new areas through the release of ballast waters and hull fouling of ships. International shipping and other marine traffic will increase as Arctic sea ice melts, which could increase the range of many marine species beyond their natural areas. Because there are relatively few known infestations of invasive species, Alaska is well-positioned for early detection and can take preventative action to protect its valuable natural resources against marine invasive species.
Alaska Vulnerable to Invasive Species From Warmer Waters
This blog article highlights research linking warming ocean temperatures and increased marine traffic with increased incidence of invasive species. To date only 15 non-native species are known to have established themselves along Alaska’s Pacific coastline—as compared to more than 250 invasive marine species that now call California home—but this could easily change with warming temperatures and increased human activity in this region, the scientists warn.
4. Lesson Plans
Ocean Acidification Lab
A series of hands-on lab exercises introduce students to ocean acidification. Lab 1 provides students with the opportunity to determine seawater is more like lemon water or bleach, Lab 2 demonstrates ocean acidification in a cup, and a final demonstration simulates the effects of ocean acidification on calcium carbonate shells.
Off Base - Acidity of Oceans
This lesson guides a student inquiry into properties of the ocean's carbonate buffer system, and how changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels may affect ocean pH and biological organisms that depend on calcification.
Ocean Acidification: the Other Carbon Dioxide Problem
This 4-minute introduction to ocean acidification shows the potential impacts on the shells of pteropods ("sea butterflies.") The video also features an animation of how acidification measurements are taken in the ocean, and describes the likely effects on marine life from increasing ocean acidification, beginning at the base of the foodweb. (Grades 6-12)
Understanding Ocean Acidification Video
In this video, Dr. Jane Lubchenco introduces the key concepts of ocean acidification, describing linkages with carbon dioxide emissions and impacts on calcifying marine species including pteropods. (Grades 6-12)
Warmer Oceans Affect Food Web
In this video, students learn that the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1989 was not the sole cause of the decline of species in the local ecosystem. Rather, an explanation is posited for why some animal populations were already in decline when the spill occurred. Many of these animals share a common food: the sand lance, a fish whose populations have shrunk with the steady rise in ocean temperature that began in the late 1970s. (Grades 6-12)
Changing Planet: Fresh Water in the Arctic
This Changing Planet video documents scientists' concerns regarding how melting Arctic sea ice will increase the amount of fresh water in the Beaufort Gyre, which could spill out into the Atlantic and cause major climate shifts in North America and Western Europe. The video includes interviews with scientists and a look at the basics of how scientists measure salinity in the ocean and how ocean circulation works in the Arctic. (Grade 6-Undergrad)
NCA Key Message 5: Native Communities
The cumulative effects of climate change in Alaska strongly affect Native communities, which are highly vulnerable to these rapid changes but have a deep cultural history of adapting to change.
1. Guiding Questions
- What are the effects of a changing climate on the food supply for the indigenous communities in Alaska? What causes these changes in food supply?
- How does resource development in the Arctic affect the way of life for indigenous people?
- How can traditional knowledge contribute to a better understanding of climate change in Alaska?
2. Key figures
Alaska Coastal Communities Damaged
One effect of the reduction in Alaska sea ice is that storm surges that used to be buffered by the ice are now causing more shoreline damage. Photos show infrastructure damage from coastal erosion in Tuntutuliak (left) and Shishmaref, Alaska (right). (Photo credits: (left) Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation; (right) Ned Rozell).
3. Other Resources
Arctic Marine Food Web
(Figure from NCA Indigenous Peoples Chapter) Dramatic reductions in Arctic sea ice and changes in its timing and composition affect the entire food web, including many Inupiaq communities that continue to rely heavily on subsistence hunting and fishing. (Figure source: NOAA NCDC).
Climate Change Project Jukebox
The Climate Change Project Jukebox was developed as a collaborative effort between the Oral History Program and the "Observing Locally, Connecting Globally" (OLCG) teacher education project from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. This website features oral and written interviews focused on observations from local leaders around Alaska. Interviewees are experienced members of the native community who maintain close contact with elders and who have a strong interest in environmental issues because of their own activities on the land. Many of their observations provide direct links between the climate and environmental changes they observe and the effects of those changes on life in rural Alaska
The Dangerous Ice Project Jukebox is an oral history project from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The goal is to understand changing ice conditions on the Tanana River through the combined knowledge of scientists and experienced local river travelers. Athabascan Elder Sam Demientieff provides a narrated slideshow of images highlighting the changing and increasingly dangerous ice conditions found along the Tanana River, and the implications these changes have for local communities.
A Changing Climate: Consequences for Subsistence Communities
This article from the National Park Service provides a concise analysis of the effects of climate change on subsistence communities, especially in Alaska.
4. Lesson Plans
The Effects of Global Warming in Alaska
The lesson begins with a video that demonstrates the unsettling influence a changing climate is having on Alaska Native peoples and cultures. Following a brief class discussion, students break into small groups and begin inquiry activities intended to enhance understanding of three relevant themes: permafrost and coastal erosion, subsistence living, and contaminants. Students conclude by sharing their understanding of this complex subject. They will do this by delivering presentations to a fictitious audience composed of experts or officials.
Observing Locally, Connecting Globally: Native Knowledge
This collection of classroom materials includes guidance for integrating traditional knowledge and western science and ideas for conducting interviews with community elders. Teachers are encouraged and guided to work with local experts on their climate change studies by focusing on locally significant observations to begin with, and by continued collaboration with local experts throughout the work.In order to understand, monitor, and prepare for changes in their environment, students must develop a deep understanding of the place in which they live. They must also be able to compare their own contemporary observations with historic information about that same environment. And they must develop a sense of the cyclic, inter-related and non-linear nature of earth system processes and human interaction. Elders and other expert observers can often provide just such knowledge because they have a very detailed and highly refined awareness of their environment gained from years of living on the land.
Arctic Community Online Curriculum
We are all members of the community of Planet Earth. Looking in detail at a specific area, namely the Arctic, can help us appreciate the meaning of community. In the Arctic community we see different members with diverse perspectives and ways of knowing all contributing to knowledge and action to slow climate change. The lessons of community learned by studying the Arctic can inspire and empower all of us in our roles as community members on Planet Earth. The focus is on solutions and positive messages of hope and action.
Adapting to Climate Change in Alaska
Alaskans ranging from Unalakleet to Kenai to Ketchikan are witnessing changes to their environment due to climate change. Erosion, invasive species, forest fires, flooding, thawing permafrost, melting ice, and shifting animal habitats are many of the changes taking place. This video describes steps being taken by some communities to adapt to these changes and to maintain their lifestyles in the face of climate change.
Faces of Climate Change - Disappearing Sea Ice
This is the third of three compelling short videos showcasing the dramatic changes in Alaska's marine ecosystems due to climate change. This video highlights disappearing sea ice through interviews with Alaska Natives and scientists.
Richard Glenn, At Home in Two Worlds
Richard Glenn, a professional geologist as well as whaling captain, an enthusiast for traditional music as well as rock drummer, lives in Barrow, the northernmost community in the United States. There he works as VP of Lands for the $1.6 billion per year Arctic Slope Regional Corporation. In this video, he takes us on a tour of Barrow, and points out what's changing and why it matters.
Alaska Native Thoughts on Climate Change
This short two-minute video features Perry Pungowiyi from the Native Village of Savoonga on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska. It's his second time on board the HEALY where he was invited by Chief Scientist, Jackie Grebmeier, to observe and participate in some of the research that was being done during the cruise, including the NOAA/National Marine Mammal Laboratory study of Arctic ice seals and observations of spectacled eiders. He wants viewers to appreciate that he is speaking here as an individual, and that his comments should not be taken as the views and opinions of the people of St. Lawrence Island.
Ground Zero for Climate Change in Alaska
More than 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle, Alaska’s North Slope is ground zero for climate change. This video from the PBS NewsHour explores how rapid changes in sea ice cover and permafrost thaw are affecting the livelihoods and traditions of Native Alaskan communities in the North Slope.
NCA Alaska 2-Page Summary
This regional highlight from the Third National Climate Assessment provides key messages and an overview of the full Alaska report.
Regional Climate Trends and Scenarios: Alaska 2-Page Summary
This document provides a brief overview of the observed changes in the climate of Alaska as well as possible future climate conditions as simulated by climate models, based on two scenarios of future greenhouse gas emissions. It summarizes the detailed findings presented in one of nine regional and national climate descriptions created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in support of the National Climate Assessment (NCA). It is also hoped that these findings are of direct benefit to decision makers and communities seeking to develop adaptation plans.
NCA 2014: Indigenous Peoples, Lands, and Resources Chapter
This chapter from the National Climate Assessment describes the unique challenges that Indigenous communities in the US are facing as the climate changes. Climate change threatens Native Peoples’ access to traditional foods and adequate water. Alaska Native communities are increasingly exposed to health and livelihood hazards related to rising temperatures and declining sea ice. Climate change impacts are forcing relocation of some Native communities.
Global Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States National Climate Assessment
This report was produced in response to a request from the U.S. National Climate Assessment Development and Advisory Committee. It provides a synthesis of the scientific literature on global sea level rise, including contributions from glaciers and ice sheets, and highlights a set of four scenarios of future global sea level rise. The report includes input from national experts in climate science, physical coastal processes, and coastal management.
Ecoregion Case Study: Polar and Subpolar
Part of the USGCRP’s Climate Change, Wildlife and Wildlands Toolkit for Educators, the Polar and Subpolar Ecoregions Case Study highlights the important role that the Arctic region plays in the global climate system and how this unique environment is affected by warming temperatures. Includes a spotlight on the Pacific Walrus and a profile of a school-based citizen science project addressing climate change in Alaska.
Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Examples in Alaska
These EPA pages documents the impacts of climate change on the state of Alaska, and highlights examples of adaptation efforts underway.
Managing for the Future in a Rapidly Changing Arctic: A Report to the President
This interagency-produced report calls for an integrated management strategy for the rapidly changing Arctic. The report highlights the need for a coordinated approach that uses the best available science to integrate cultural, environmental and economic factors in decision-making about development and conservation.
IARPC Arctic Research Plan, 2013-2017
The Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) is charged with developing five-year plans for Federally sponsored research in the Arctic region. For 2013 to 2017, the IARPC, which consists of representatives from 14 Federal agencies, departments, and offices, has identified seven research areas that will inform national policy and benefit significantly from close interagency coordination. The research areas, described further in the report, are as follows:
- Sea ice and marine ecosystems;
- Terrestrial ice and ecosystems;
- Atmospheric studies of surface heat, energy, and mass balances;
- Observing systems;
- Regional climate models;
- Adaptation tools for sustaining communities; and
- Human health.