Arctic Alaska: the "Last Frontier"?
The map shows the destinations we’ll be visiting on the expedition, from Barrow in the Arctic Circle through Healy in the Interior to Girdwood in the Anchorage area.
Alaska is the northernmost state in the USA. It’s the biggest state in terms of surface area – around 20% of the total – but the fourth smallest in terms of population. Hardly surprising, given its remote location and harsh climate. Part of Alaska actually lies inside the Arctic circle. But the average temperature has risen by around 6° C since 1960. Not enough to warrant bikinis on this trip, but alarming if you see how fast the rate of ice melt is accelerating.
Recent NASA photos indicate that although it has actually been a particularly cold winter, leading to an increase in SEA ice, established ice areas in the Arctic are melting fast.
Our first destination will be the furthest away one: Barrow, the northernmost city in the USA, 340 miles into the Arctic Circle. Its own people describe it as “probably the harshest polar location in Alaska”.
introduction to barrow
The Climate College field trip is going to Alaska because it’s one of the areas most clearly affected by climate change. They’re calling the expedition “Unbaking Alaska”, the idea being to show the selected “Climate ambassadors” the effects of climate change first hand, bringing them into contact with scientists working in the “front lines” of climate research, and introducing them to “climate witnesses” – especially Inupiat eskimos – they’ll be even more inspired to take action to combat global warming.
DateApril 10, 2008 | 1:26 pm
Although I’ve been to the Arctic a few times now, it hasn’t lost any of its excitement. A lot of people find it hard to understand why I want to spend some of the summer in the “frozen North”. Maybe it’s coming from a country like Scotland with its “challenging“ climate that accounts for my attraction to snow and ice. Not that we ever had -40°C there, which is the kind of temperature I sometimes find myself in on “Ice Blog” kind of trips. Mongolia in February is the coldest experience I remember. Travelling in the Arctic in spring and summer is mild, by comparison.
I first visited Spitsbergen in 2007, before the days of the Ice Blog. The climate issue is more worrying than ever, especially given the widespread lack of interest and increase in scepticism amongst the general public since the Copenhagen debacle and the negative publicity given to some of the climate scientists. Then comes the realisation that it will be very difficult to reach a binding agreement of any substantial nature in the next round of UN climate talks.
DateApril 9, 2008 | 2:21 pm