NATIONAL NEWS

Blooms, Beasts Affected As Alaska Records Hottest Month

Aug 20, 2019, 6:54 AM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 5:03 pm
People hike on the Byron Glacier on July 4, 2019 near Portage Lake in Girdwood, Alaska. Alaska is b...
People hike on the Byron Glacier on July 4, 2019 near Portage Lake in Girdwood, Alaska. Alaska is bracing for record warm temperatures and dry conditions in parts of the state. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska has been America’s canary in the coal mine for climate warming, and the yellow bird is swooning.

July was Alaska’s warmest month ever, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Sea ice melted. Bering Sea fish swam in above-normal temperatures. So did children in the coastal town of Nome. Wildfire season started early and stayed late. Thousands of walruses thronged to shore.

Unusual weather events like this could become more common with climate warming, said Brian Brettschneider, an associate climate researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ International Arctic Research Center. Alaska has seen “multiple decades-long increases” in temperature, he said.

“It becomes easier to have these unusual sets of conditions that now lead to records,” Brettschneider said.

Alaska’s average temperature in July was 58.1 degrees (14.5 Celsius). That’s 5.4 degrees (3 Celsius) above average and 0.8 degrees (0.4 Celsius) higher than the previous warmest month of July 2004, NOAA said.

The effects were felt from the Arctic Ocean to the world’s largest temperate rainforest on Alaska’s Panhandle.

Anchorage, the state’s largest city, on July 4 for the first time hit 90 degrees (32.22 Celsius) at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, 5 degrees higher than the city’s previous recorded high of 85 degrees (29.44 Celsius).

Sea ice off Alaska’s north and northwest shore and other Arctic regions retreated to the lowest level ever recorded for July, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado.

Arctic sea ice for July set a record low of 2.9 million square miles (7.6 million square kilometers). That was a South Carolina-size loss of 30,900 square miles (80,000 square kilometers) below the previous record low July in 2012.

Sea ice is the main habitat for polar bears and a resting platform for female walruses and their young. Several thousand walruses came to shore July 30, the first time they’ve been spotted in such large numbers before August.

Effects were less obvious in the Bering Sea off Alaska’s west coast. Lyle Britt, a NOAA Fisheries biologist who oversees the agency’s annual Bering Sea groundfish survey, was on a trawler east of the island of Saint Matthew during the first week of July.

“The temperature out there for us was in the high 70s,” Britt said. “On those boats, everything up there is designed to conserve heat, not vent heat. It was unbearably warm inside the boat.”

On the ocean bottom, Britt’s crew for the second consecutive year found scant evidence of a “cold pool,” the east-west barrier of extremely cold, salty water that traditionally concentrates Pacific cod and walleye pollock, the species that make fast-food fish sandwiches, in the southeastern Bering Sea.

Alaska’s wildfire season started in April. July’s dry and hot temperatures extended it. An expected rainy season marked by southwest winds pushing up moisture and soaking fires did not show up on time, said Tim Mowry, spokesman for the state Division of Forestry.

“It extended our fire season through the month of July,” Mowry said.

Alaska by mid-July can usually free up crews to fight fires in other states, but only about 15 people have left this year. High fire danger around Anchorage, the Kenai Peninsula and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough has kept crews in Alaska.

“We’ve pretty much held on to all our resources in-state at this point,” Mowry said.

A burn ban and water sprinkler restrictions remain in place for Haines, just outside the Tongass National Forest. July extended a drought in the rainforest, said Rick Thoman, another climate expert at the International Arctic Research Center.

Cities in the southern half of the rainforest have limited or no hydropower because of low water levels. That means power has to be generated by burning diesel fuel, Thoman said.

July was the hottest month measured on Earth since records began in 1880, NOAA reported Thursday. And a United Nations report earlier this month warned that global warming threatens food supplies around the world.

But Alaska’s recent heat has had silver linings. Barley and other crops are ready to harvest, said Stephen Brown of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service.

The growing season has been extended by a month, and if extra days become the norm, they will expand what can be grown in the state. Brown used heat radiated from his blacktop driveway to grow fruit not usually seen outside greenhouses.

“I’ve got a bumper crop of tomatoes and jalapenos this summer,” he said.

On the other hand, the weather has stressed birch trees and left them vulnerable to leaf-eating insects.

“That gives the leaf miners opportunity to really whack them good,” he said. “I’m looking at my lawn right now, and I need to rake leaves.”

Brettschneider, the climate researcher, sees mostly negative effects from the hot July and climate warming. Alaska looks the way it does because of the temperature regime, he said, and in 50 years, Alaska may look like Idaho.

“We should expect changes. We should expect the forests to be in different locations. We should expect wildlife to move. We should expect plants to move. And in many cases, if they can’t move fast enough, we should expect them to just go away,” he said.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

A package of Plan B contraceptive is displayed at Jack's Pharmacy on April 5, 2013 in San Anselmo, ...
HALELUYA HADERO, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Amazon, Rite Aid cap purchase of emergency contraceptives

Amazon is limiting how many emergency contraceptives consumers can buy, joining other retailers who put in place similar caps following the Supreme Court decision overruling Roe v. Wade.
1 day ago
Guns of many varieties are organized by type and caliber for use in training, and to fix malfunctio...
DON THOMPSON, Associated Press

Personal info on California gun owners wrongly made public

The California Department of Justice says it wrongly made public the personal information of hundreds of thousands of gun owners in their state-operated databases.
1 day ago
The American Heart Association added sleep duration to its cardiovascular health checklist. It's a ...
Megan Marples, CNN

Sleep duration matters for heart health, according to new recommendations

If you needed another reason to get enough sleep, here it is: It may help your heart health.
1 day ago
FILE: Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally on September 25, 2021 in Perry, Georgia. Repu...
MICHAEL R. SISAK, Associated Press

Judge ends Trump contempt order after lengthy legal fight

A New York judge has ruled that former President Donald Trump is no longer in contempt of court.
1 day ago
FILE (Getty Images)...
Associated Press

Police: Virginia toddler left in car dies, father kills self

A toddler accidentally left in a vehicle for hours died Tuesday and police said his father was found dead in an apparent suicide at their Virginia home.
1 day ago
Cameron Diaz is making a new movie with Jamie Foxx. (Weiss Eubanks/NBCUniversal/Getty Images via CN...
Leah Asmelash, CNN

Cameron Diaz is coming out of retirement, thanks to Jamie Foxx

After an eight-year hiatus, Cameron Diaz is making movies again.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Blooms, Beasts Affected As Alaska Records Hottest Month