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Alaska hits record temperatures due to climate change

Kodiak, Alaska just reported the highest temperature ever recorded in the state in the month of December at 67 degrees Fahrenheit. The new high (reached on Sunday, December 26) beat the previous record from the 1980, which didn’t manage to exceed the high 40s. According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Alaska is warming faster than any other US state and at a rate that is twice the global average.

Kodiak was not the only city in Alaska fighting with record temperatures recently. Cold Bay, located on the Aleutian Islands, experienced a ground-breaking 66 degrees (after a previous record of 44 in 1999), while Unalaska’s temperature spiked up to 57.3 degrees on Monday.

This anomalous warmth has brought record moisture, since the air can hold four percent more water with every degree that it warms. This resulted in massive rains, with Fairbanks experiencing its wettest December on record, and winter rains in the Interior region of Alaska becoming increasingly more commonplace.

According to the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), climate change could also increase the number of thunderstorms that Alaska will face during this century, which in turn could spark widespread flash flooding, landslides, and lightning-induced wildfires.

The scientists estimate that the sea ice around Alaska will increasingly melt in the warmer months, creating an ample source of moisture which, together with warmer temperature from greenhouse emissions may cause intense summertime storms.

“Alaska can expect three times as many storms, and those storms will be more intense,” said NCAR scientist Andreas Prein, a co-author of an earlier study exploring the impact of climate change on Alaska’s weather. “It will be a very different regime of rainfall.”

“We suspect that the increasing number of thunderstorms might have significant impacts, such as amplifying spring floods or causing more wildfire ignitions,” added study lead author Basile Poujol, a scientist at the Paris Sciences and Letters University

“Further studies are necessary to determine whether these impacts are likely to occur and, if so, their potential effects on ecosystems and society.”

“The potential for flash flooding and landslides is definitely increasing, and the Arctic is becoming way more flammable. It’s hard to grasp what the ecological changes will be in the future,” concluded Dr. Prein.

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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