Map of Alaska (USA). The village of Shishmaref is located in the northwest.
Click on image for full size
Windows to the Universe original image
Global Warming Endangers an Alaskan Eskimo Village
News story originally written on August 28, 2002
Recent global warming is raising temperatures of arctic regions much faster than other areas on Earth. Not only does this make the arctic warmer but it is also causing the island village of Shishmaref, Alaska to erode slowly into the sea.
Six hundred Eskimo people live in Shishmaref, which is located on a small barrier island off the northwest coast of Alaska. They have noticed over many years that the winters are much warmer than they used to be with less sea ice surrounding their island. In fact, the average winter temperature in Alaska has risen 4 degrees Celsius in the past 40 years, which is about 10 times faster than the rest of the world.
According to Gunter Weller, professor at the University of Alaska, warming of the arctic is much greater than other regions because as the climate warms, snow and ice that cover the surface melt, allows the newly exposed Earth surface to absorb more solar energy which warms the climate even more, melting more snow and ice. This is called a positive feedback loop.
As the arctic warms, the layer of frozen ground called permafrost melts, becoming soft and easily eroded. This means that the small island where the village of Shishmaref sits was once solid but is now basically a pile of shifting sand like the barrier islands of warmer places such as those in North Carolina. Without a protective shield of sea ice, and soft, unfrozen ground the island is vulnerable to damage from severe storms.
Intense erosion has washed away some parts of the island and some houses were relocated. But now, there is no more room to relocate houses and people of the village are considering moving the entire town off the island.
Last modified August 28, 2002 by Lisa Gardiner.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
includes issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist
, full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science, ranging from seismology
, rocks and minerals
, and Earth system science
You might also be interested in:
A recent study by scientists at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research has shown that there is a 90% chance that global temperatures will rise 3-9 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 100 years....more
This picture shows a part of the Earth surface as seen from the International Space Station high above the Earth. A perspective like this reminds us that there are lots of different things that cover the...more
In the north polar region, the climate has warmed rapidly during the past few decades. Average temperatures in the Arctic are rising twice as fast as they are elsewhere in the world. In Alaska (USA) temperatures...more
It was another exciting and frustrating year for the space science program. It seemed that every step forward led to one backwards. Either way, NASA led the way to a great century of discovery. Unfortunately,...more
The Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off from Kennedy Space Center at 2:19 p.m. EST, October 29th. The sky was clear and the weather was great as Discovery took 8 1/2 minutes to reach orbit for the Unitied...more
A moon was discovered orbiting the asteroid, Eugenia. This is only the second time in history that a satellite has been seen circling an asteroid. A special mirror allowed scientists to find the moon...more
Will Russia ever put the service module for the International Space Station in space? NASA officials are demanding an answer from the Russian government. The necessary service module is currently waiting...more