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Climate Variability in the Alaskan North Slope Coastal Region

The environmental issues affecting the Alaskan North Slope coastal region are the decline in ice extent in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, gouging of shelves and coast by sea ice, sea level rise, and storm hazards. The focus of this project is to understand, support, and enhance the local decision-making process on the North Slope of Alaska in the face of climate variability on seasonal-to-decadal time scales, both natural and as a result of anthropogenic changes. This will help stakeholders clarify their common interests by exchanging information and knowledge concerning climate and environmental changes. During FY03, Linda Mearns and Claudia Tebaldi (ESIG/RAP) examined statistical models for downscaling large-scale climate signals into fine-scale meteorological information, such as winds, temperature, precipitation time series at specific locations or over high-resolution spatial fields. In addition, Matt Pocernich (RAP) and Mearns analyzed extreme damaging winds in Barrow and, using extreme value theory, calculated their return periods. The project website is available at and will continue through FY04.

Circle of Knowledge: Weather, Climate and Environmental Change

The philosophy of this project is to create a “Circle of Knowledge” on weather, climate and environmental changes by co-developing a community driven project with the Native people in Athabascan villages along the Koyukuk River (Huslia, Hughes, Koyukuk) in Alaska and scientists who study Arctic and global climate change. The Arctic climate plays an important role in the global climate system. And it is the first to feel the effects of a warming climate (IPCC, 2001; Serreze et al., 2000). Therefore, understanding climate change and its impacts in the Northern latitudes is crucial to understanding global climate change as a whole. A paucity of data and observations in this region has led to increasing interest in the integration of western science with indigenous knowledge and Native observations of climate change. While Native elders and hunters possess traditional knowledge and observations of weather and environmental change, they are concerned about the dramatic changes they are witnessing in the sky, on the land, and in ecosystems.

The Principal Investigator, Shannon McNeeley, has been visiting the Native communities to work with community leaders, elders and youth on getting input and documenting elders observations of environmental change and Traditional Knowledge and Wisdom about the weather, plants, animals, land and water resources. Initial interviews have been conducted with elders between April 2004 to July 2004. Ms. McNeeley worked with Native high school student interns as research assistants from each of the villages. The student not only assisted in arranging and taping the interviews, but also were invaluable cultural liaisons to their people.

This project is a Small Grant for Exploratory Research (SGER) funded by the Office of Polar Program’s Arctic Social Sciences Program. The PI will be continuing this research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks as a National Science Foundation IGERT Fellow while pursuing a Ph.D. in anthropology.

Exploring the Feasibility Limits of Adaptation Strategies to Sea-Level Rise

During FY05, under the lead of Susi Moser, we will develop an interdisciplinary research project on the physical, economic, social, ecological, and political feasibility limits of common adaptation strategies to sea-level rise.

Likely to be initiated through a workshop with collaborators and stakeholders, the project will involve a detailed integrated assessment of climatological, economic, environmental, and social factors influencing the feasibility of adaptation strategies to sea-level rise. These factors will be considered in a robust policy analyses to compare conditions under which different strategies succeed or fail. Potential case studies considered include: Alaska, California, Hawai'i, and a Gulf of Mexico and East Coast state.

Key Collaborators:

Susi Moser, Linda Mearns

Potential External Collaborators:
Robert Lempert (RAND), Michael Hanemann (UC-Berkeley), Gary Griggs (UC-Santa Cruz), Dan Cayan (Scripps), Ron Brunner (University of Colorado), Amanda Lynch (Monash University, Australia), and others TBD.


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