Friday 27 December 2019

What's up with Alaska? Bone crushing cold Christmas: 2019 warm records broken in Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter: Fires: Cod, Crab, Salmon gone: 5 year long seabird die-off

  • Extremely low cod numbers have lead feds to close the Gulf of Alaska fishery for the first time ever. 
  • Salmon all but have gone. Die-offs of massive amounts of unspawned chum, sockeye, and pink salmon. 
  • Monday, December the 9th was the warmest December day ever recorded in Alaska. Alaska's low on December the 9th was warmer than the average high for the time of the year.
  • Anchorage recorded a high of 51 deg F, on Monday, (10.5 deg C), which is more than double the December average. 
  • In 2019, Alaska has broken heat records in the Spring, the Summer, Autumn and now Winter. 
  • Parts of Alaska recorded their warmest February and March on record with temperatures +40 deg F above normal killing off the Crab fishing season. 
  • In July, Alaska hit 89 degrees F, (32 deg C), to break the all-time highest temperature ever recorded: Campbell Creek hit 91 degrees F, (33 deg C) July 2019 now stands as Alaska’s hottest month on record. 
 As you might expect Alaska is cold, the temperature is set to drop to -42 deg F, (-41.1 deg C) today, the coldest spell of their winter so far. On Thursday, 26th Dec, morning temperatures in Alaska's interior plunged into the 50s below zero in at least two locations north of Fairbanks. The National Weather Service in Fairbanks issued wind chill warnings for parts of Alaska's Arctic coast and other locations in northern Alaska for wind chills that could be as low as 65 degrees below zero (-54 deg C) through Friday or Saturday.

But its heat which has grabbed the headlines this year, record warmth was recorded more or less all year long in Alaska in 2019, Alaska saw a lot of record-breaking warmth in 2019, records were broken in the Spring, the Summer, Autumn and Winter, according to Meteorologist Danielle Banks. Parts of Alaska recorded their warmest February and March on record with temperatures +40 deg F above normal. In July, Anchorage hit 89 degrees F, (32 deg C), to break the all-time highest temperature ever recorded there: Campbell Creek hit 91 degrees F, (33 deg C) and the records kept tumbling! Anchorage experienced six days in a row of 80-plus deg F (27-plus deg C) weather - the longest stretch on record for the city. July 2019 now stands as Alaska’s hottest month on record, which is the latest benchmark in a long-term warming trend with ominous repercussions ranging from rapidly vanishing summer sea ice and melting glaciers to raging wildfires and deadly chaos for marine life.

Of Alaska’s 10 warmest months on record, seven have now occurred since 2004. Alaska waters were completely clear of sea ice as the last ice in the Beaufort Sea melted away by Aug the 4th this year, this is not the first time Alaska's waters have been completely free of ice - in fact, just two years ago, in the summer of 2017, the same thing happened. But what's notable is that during the 2017 melt season, the ice melted much later in the summer.

Even more worrying is the mystery of fish decline in Alaska. Extremely low cod numbers have lead feds to close the Gulf of Alaska fishery for the first time ever. In an unprecedented response to historically low numbers of Pacific cod, the federal cod fishery in the Gulf of Alaska is closing for the 2020 season. It’s a decision that came as little surprise, but it’s the first time the fishery was closed due to concerns of low stock. “We’re on the knife’s edge of this over-fished status,” North Pacific Fisheries Management Council member Nicole Kimball said during talks in Anchorage Friday afternoon. It’s not over-fishing to blame for the die-off, but rather, climate change. Warming ocean temperatures linked to climate change are wreaking havoc on a number of Alaska’s fisheries, worrying biologists, locals and fishermen with low returns that jeopardize fishing livelihoods. A stock assessment this fall put Gulf cod populations at a historic low, with “next to no” new eggs, according to NOAA research biologist Steve Barbeaux, who authored the report.

Last month The Big Wobble reported more misery for Alaskan pink salmon fisheries. Prince William Sound Science Center field season was marked by a low flow and high pre-spawn mortality. This year, virtually no rain led to extremely low flows and field crews observed unprecedented pre-spawning die-offs and unusually late migration into the streams. According to the Prince William Sound Science Center, the fish finally started, what was for many, an ill-fated journey into the streams after some rain in early September. The rain stopped and the rivers dried up again. Soon thousands of fish were restricted to tide pools without enough water to return to the bays. They all suffocated. “During the first 10 days of September, our dead fish count in one of our streams rose from virtually none to nearly 30,000 dead pink salmon, all dying prior to spawning”. “Our field crews estimated 10,000 died over a single night. We have never documented anything like that in the past.”

In November 2019, thousands of short-tailed shearwaters birds migrating from Alaska were washing up dead on Sydney's iconic beaches and the bird deaths had nothing to do with the massive wildfires in the area, thousands more, short-tailed shearwaters were dying out at sea, in what was confirmation of the incredible fish shortages in the Pacific Ocean. The corpses had been spotted at several shorelines including Bondi, Manly and Cronulla. The birds were migrating back to southern Australia to breed after spending the summer in Alaska. But, according to experts, a higher number than usual are dying on the way due to a lack of food. The birds need to be at full strength to make the 14,000km trip over the Pacific but the krill and other fish they feed on have apparently dwindled due to sea temperatures rising.

BirdLife Australia has rendered the problem a 'crisis'. In a statement on its website, the group says: 'For the fifth consecutive year, the sea surface temperatures off Alaska have been unusually warm, which has led to a dire shortage of the shearwaters' marine prey, resulting in thousands of dead shearwaters being washed ashore along Alaska's beaches. 'According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, they died of starvation. 'It wasn't a single event, though; instead, it was a series of catastrophic die-offs. 'Starting in late June, these die-offs continued along different sections of the Alaskan coast, occurring progressively further south, through into August. 'Numerous shearwaters also washed up on Russia's Chukotka Peninsula as well. 'Although many thousands of birds were found dead and dying on the beach, this is likely the tip of the iceberg.'

As we enter the Roaring Twenties in just 5 days Alaska will be central to scientists as they look for a solution as to what is happening on planet Earth.