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Climate change keenly felt in Alaska's national parks

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Thawing permafrost is triggering mudslides onto a key road traveled by busloads of sightseers. Tall bushes newly sprouted on the tundra are blocking panoramic views.

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - Thawing permafrost is triggering mudslides onto a key road traveled by busloads of sightseers. Tall bushes newly sprouted on the tundra are blocking panoramic views. And glaciers are receding from convenient viewing areas, while their rapid summer melt poses new flood risks.

These are just a few of the ways that a rapidly warming climate is reshaping Denali, Kenai Fjords and other national parks comprising the crown jewels of Alaska's heritage as America's last frontier.

These and some better-known impacts -- proliferation of invasive plants and fish, greater frequency and intensity of wildfires, and declines in wildlife populations that depend on sea ice and glaciers -- are outlined in a recent National Park Service report.

Since the mid-1970s, Alaska has warmed at three times the rate of the Lower 48 states, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. And with nearly two-thirds of U.S. national parkland located in Alaska, the issue of climate change is especially pressing there, officials say.

In some far northern parks such as Gates of the Arctic, average temperatures are expected to shift in coming years from below freezing to above freezing, crossing a crucial threshold, said Bob Winfree, Alaska science adviser for the Park Service.

"The effects of melting ice and thawing permafrost, I think, will be major," Winfree said.

Winfree is helping lead a new three-year, $500,000 climate scenario project in Alaska intended to identify and cope with the warming trend. That is part of a $10 million program to plan for and mitigate climate change in parks nationwide.

In some Alaska parks, the climate transformation is too gradual to be detected by casual visitors, Winfree said. But many experts see it.

"Those of us that go into these places over time can definitely notice the changes," said Jim Stratton, Alaska regional director for the National Parks and Conservation Association, an environmental organization.

Some changes are obvious in Kenai Fjords National Park, a popular destination south of Anchorage known for its ice-capped peaks, tidewater glaciers and abundant marine life.

The retreat of Exit Glacier, one of the park's best-known features, has forced park managers to reroute trails through areas that were under ice just a few years ago. The glacier's retreat also has left a sheltered pavilion that was built in the 1990s far from the spectacular views of blue ice.

"We used to build these things with a sense of permanence," said Jeff Mow, the park's superintendent.

A more ominous concern has been runoff from glacier melt. Spring and fall floods have long been common, but over the past two summers, at the peak of tourist season, the Exit Glacier entrance has been swept by big, road-closing floods, Mow said.

There are similar hazards elsewhere, according to the Park Service's climate strategy report. Shrinking glaciers and heavy snowmelt make it more likely that the frozen walls of glacial lakes will fail, triggering flash floods and debris flows that could endanger park workers and visitors, the report said.

http://www.scientifi...nge-keenly-felt

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we should tax someone and send the money to climate change scientists. I suggest Egyptians. with their new-found freedom they should learn about responsibility to the world community and Egypt is really hot, so they are contributing to global warming way out of proportion to their population. We should tax them. That would fix everything.


VERMONT! I Reject Your Reality...and Substitute My Own!

Gary And Alla

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someone needs to suspend that glacier for not cooperating.

You may have hit on the ultimate solution! Just BAN global warming! Why haven't the DEMs thought of that yet? Dumb@sses.


VERMONT! I Reject Your Reality...and Substitute My Own!

Gary And Alla

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