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Monday, January 29, 2018

Utqiaġvik, where the climate has already changed

Utqiaġvik (Barrow), Alaska.  Source: Anchorage Daily News

Two things happened on top of the world this week. In Utqiaġvik [formerly Barrow, in Alaska] on Jan. 22 the sun topped the horizon for the first time since mid-November.

The day before that, Jan. 21, was the first time since Halloween that the town's thermometers recorded a below-normal daily average air temperature.

The returning daylight for the country's farthest-north town is due to a predictable nod of the Earth back toward the sun. Utqiaġvik's second day of direct sunlight, Jan. 23, featured almost an hour's increase from the day before. The town will have four hours of daylight by the end of January. By May 11, there will be no night.

Just as dramatic are the recent warm autumns and winters in Utqiaġvik. While many people worldwide sense their favorite places are changing, residents of Utqiaġvik use the past tense.

"The term is no longer 'climate change' at Utqiaġvik. It is 'climate changed.' No doubt about it, based on my 40 years," said biologist Craig George, who studies bowhead whales and other animals from his home in Utqiaġvik.

George remembered back to October 1988, when three gray whales became trapped in Beaufort Sea ice just north of Point Barrow. The whales became a worldwide news story, as local rescuers used chain saws to cut circular breathing holes in the sea ice, trying to lead the whales to open ocean.

"This year, we had crashing waves onshore and 34 degrees F on winter solstice," he said. "It's almost like a different planet."
In December, NOAA scientists looking for the latest temperatures from Utqiaġvik sensors found computer algorithms had flagged and removed November readings because they seemed so far off.

The average temperature for October through December 2017 was 15.6 degrees F, 12.2 degrees above normal and highest for that span in the last 98 years, according to NOAA climatologist Rick Thoman.

Since 2000, the average October temperature in Utqiaġvik has increased 7.8 degrees F. November's average temperature has increased 6.9 degrees and December's, 4.7.
[Read more here; hat tip to Wayne ]

How much longer must we wait for serious action to avert catastrophic climate change to start? What will it take for our politicians to stop paying lip-service to initiatives to de-carbonise economies?  How much longer will right-wing parties continue to deny that global warming is happening right now?

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