For the first time in recorded history, Anchorage enters “extreme drought”.
Alaska's temperate rainforest is in a historic drought. The climate crisis is known to alter the Globe's rainfall patterns. The city of Anchorage was carved out of the rainforest known as Chugach. The Chugach rainforest forms a great arc around Prince William Sound and the Gulf of Alaska.
Warming temperatures caused by human carbon emissions can take a toll on a forest such as the Chugach, by drought, bark beetle infestation, and raging wildfires.
Drought causes trees to absorb less of the carbon that we spew out in record amounts every single second. NASA warned in 2017 “…as global temperatures continue to rise, droughts are expected to become more frequent and severe in many regions during this century. A new study with NASA participation finds that land ecosystems took progressively longer to recover from droughts in the 20th century, and incomplete drought recovery may become the new normal in some areas, possibly leading to tree death and increased emissions of greenhouse gases.
ANCHORAGE (KTUU) – Drought conditions worsened in Anchorage in the past week moving the region from Severe drought to Extreme drought for the first time on record.
According to the Drought Monitor, 63 percent of the population remains under drought conditions.
Anchorage saw a record dry month in June with only .06 inches of rain. Only .8 inches of rain fell in July, which is more than one inch below normal for the month. Only a trace of precipitation has been recorded in August so far. This puts Anchorage more than four inches below normal for the summer but only 2.24 inches below normal for the year, partially due to a record wet May.
The Weather Channel reports on the drought:
Moderate-to-severe drought conditions have plagued southeast Alaska every week since last July, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The latest update posted on May 23 showed the drought had intensified into the extreme category, a first for Alaska since weekly drought monitor updates began in 2000. Extreme drought is the second-worst of five categories used to diagnose abnormal dryness and drought across the United States each week.
Dominant high pressure in the upper atmosphere has blocked moisture-laden storm systems from affecting southeast Alaska over the last year, causing the growing precipitation deficits and drought. The area of high pressure has been centered around the Gulf of Alaska, sending many storm systems on a path northward toward the Bering Sea or southward toward the Pacific Northwest.
When reservoir levels are low, some communities are forced to use supplemental generators that are fueled by expensive diesel fuel, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
Damage to trees from insects has also become widespread because of the drought. “Hemlock sawfly damage was widespread in 2018, amounting to the third largest area of damage in 46 years of data, and continues in 2019,” the drought monitor summary said in its May 23 update.
Another interesting note is that southeast Alaska has more extreme drought than all of the Lower 48 states combined. Wetter-than-average conditions have dropped drought coverage across the Lower 48 to some of the lowest levels on record this spring.