Anchorage Cancels Fireworks Due To Historic Heat Wave
“What is happening in coastal Alaska is what is coming in one sense for everybody else. Changes are happening, and changes will be magnified.”
Anchorage, Alaska, reached 90 degrees on Thursday, shattering all-time temperature records and prompting the city’s fire department to cancel July 4th fireworks due to extreme dry weather. Anchorage’s historic heat wave comes days after a U.N.-backed report showed last month was the hottest June on record.
“The northern Bering Sea near Alaska during May & June has never been warmer than this year. Six of the ten warmest May-Junes in the past 120 years have been the past six years. Community and ecosystem impacts continue,” tweeted Rick Thoman, a climate specialist with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy.
Alaska is the fastest warming U.S. state with temperatures rising at twice the average global rate, according to the Fourth National Climate Assessment. One of the most alarming aspects of Alaska’s increased heat is melting ice, which deflects sunlight, whereas open water absorbs it and increases above surface temperatures.
“For sea surface temperatures, that’s just astronomical,” Thoman told the Times, in reference to surface temperatures reaching an average of four degrees above normal on Alaskan seas. Ice which normally lasts through the end of May melted in March this year, which was the state’s hottest March on record. Thoman warned the rapidly melting ice could hurt communities that rely on hunting and fishing, saying, “our communities are resilient, but things are happening so fast.”
Even though the Alaska State Fire Marshal banned the sale and use of fireworks in large swathes of the state, officials fear the dry and hot weather could enable wildfires to ignite.
“We could be up and running with fires here in the next couple days,” Beth Ipsen, a spokeswoman with the Bureau of Land Management, told the New York Times.
Climatologist Brian Brettschneider says Alaska’s situation mirrors what is coming on a global scale. Melting ice in the arctic and other regions creates a negative feedback loop of warmer water and rising sea levels, which is projected to cost as much as $70 trillion to the global economy.
Greenland recently experienced historic melting with temperatures 40 degrees above normal, as the Washington Post reported: “Data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center show that the Greenland ice sheet appears to have witnessed its biggest melt event so early in the season on record this week (although a few other years showed similar mid-June melting).”
“Next year, the winds could turn northerly. That tends to mask a warming signal,” Brettschneider told CNN. “What is happening in coastal Alaska is what is coming in one sense for everybody else. Changes are happening, and changes will be magnified.”