The Lower 48 Are Freezing, But Alaska Isn’t – Do High Winter Temperatures Mean Trouble For The Last Frontier?

While Americans in the lower 48 states are bundling up, weather reports from Alaska announced February temperatures as high as the mid-50s for parts of our northernmost state. Thermometers in Alaska are breaking record highs, and while some people in the lower continental United States might be jealous, the Alaskan heat waves might spell bad news for residents of the Last Frontier.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell visited Kotzebue this week at the invitation of the Alaska Federation of Natives, according to Alaska Dispatch News, to discuss among other things, the warming of the Alaskan region.

In addition to the warming trend in Alaska, the state is reporting low snow fall. There was so little snow that the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was forced to move its official restart to Fairbanks in the Alaskan Interior from the Southcentral community of Willow for the second time.

Part of Alaska’s geographical make-up is its permafrost. Roads, airports, and even buildings are built upon the hard frozen earth of Alaska. As the temperature has warmed at record rates, parts of the Alaskan permafrost have thawed. The result has been buckled roads, collapsed buildings, and a lack of support for established forests’ root systems, which results in trees leaning over so much that they have named the phenomenon “drunken forests.”

Though Alaska is used to forest fires as part of the climate, which are needed for its ecosystem, last year, an usually warm winter with low snow fall brought devastation to parts of Alaska in the spring. Wildfires burned out of control. By late May, the Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team announced that the Funny River forest fire alone had burned nearly 200,000 acres.