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Alaska Native perspective highlighted in Arctic Report Card 2019

 This April 17, 2004, photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows two walrus cows on ice off the west coast of Alaska. Hunters and scientists say a warming climate is causing walrus migration patterns to veer from historical hunting grounds as the ocean ice used by the animals to dive and rest recedes farther north. Remote communities at the edge of the Bering Sea are seeing a steep decline in walrus harvested the past several years. (Joel Garlich-Miller/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP)
This April 17, 2004, photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows two walrus cows on ice off the west coast of Alaska. Hunters and scientists say a warming climate is causing walrus migration patterns to veer from historical hunting grounds as the ocean ice used by the animals to dive and rest recedes farther north. Remote communities at the edge of the Bering Sea are seeing a steep decline in walrus harvested the past several years. (Joel Garlich-Miller/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP) (KTUU)
Published: Dec. 10, 2019 at 1:27 PM AKST
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The Arctic Report Card 2019 is out and for the first time in 13 years since the report was first issued, Alaska Native voices are being featured in the report card.

The section is called

and features input from Alaska Native Elders in eight communities around the region, which is currently experiencing an unprecedented shift in its ecosystem.

Surface air temperature rises were the most dramatic in the Northern Bering Sea as anywhere in the Arctic (Image from NOAA)

At a media presentation, Melissa Johnson, an Inupiaq from Nome and Executive Director Bering Sea Elders Group spoke on the changes that the Bering Sea elders have been noticing. For example, Johnson said that elders in the group noted that the bearded seal, known regionally as ugruk, is having less and less fat content.

Another observation that only local subsistence users could make: that the one-time delicacy of clams taken from the stomachs of walrus are no longer found inside the mammals, suggesting a broad change in the ecosystem.

Ice conditions are also causing safety concerns.

"Many areas are unsafe for travel, unsafe for hunting, unsafe for our future," she said. That's made food insecurity a major concern.

In the report, elders in Teller and Nome note that they have seen die-offs of our blue cod and tomcod, likely due to lack of food.

One elder wrote “At Wales, we counted 20 dead young ugruks from this past spring that had presumably not had enough food. Similarly, on St. Lawrence Island, we observed 50 dead spotted seals and young ugruks along a 15-20 mile stretch of beach.”

Those observations are also born out by western scientific observations. According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association data, the Bering Sea region has had the largest rise in surface air temperatures of anywhere in the Arctic in 2019.

To read the full section click

Headlines from the 2019 Arctic Report Card
  • The average annual land surface air temperature in the region was the second warmest since 1900.
    • Alaska had warmer than normal air temperatures throughout the year, especially in winter, that were associated with unusual southerly winds and a lack of Bering Sea ice, similar to winter 2018.
  • The Greenland Ice Sheet is losing nearly 267 billion metric tons of ice per year and currently contributing to global average sea-level rise.
    • Roughly 95% of the Greenland ice sheet surface underwent melting during the 2019 summer.
    • Along with surface melt, the Greenland Ice Sheet also lost mass from glacial ice falling into the ocean.
  • North American Arctic snow cover in May 2019 was the fifth lowest in 53 years of record. June snow cover was the third lowest.
    • North American Arctic snow cover extent anomalies in May and June were the 5th and 3rd lowest, respectively, in the 53-year record.
    • Exceptionally early snow melt occurred in March over the northwestern Canadian Arctic and Alaska, contributing to below-average April snow water equivalent and snow depth.
  • Arctic sea ice extent at the end of summer 2019 was tied with 2007 and 2016 as the second lowest since satellite observations began in 1979.
  • Bering and Barents Seas fisheries have experienced a northerly shift in the distribution of subarctic and Arctic fish species, linked to the loss of sea ice and changes in bottom water temperature.

You can read the full Arctic Report 2019

Copyright 2019 KTUU. All rights reserved.

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