As Alaska Warms, The Y-K Delta Heats Up Even Faster

Alaska is warming twice as fast as the rest of the U.S., and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta is seeing the impacts faster than than most of the state.

Rick Thoman tracks the average number of times temperatures fall below freezing in Bethel.

"Of course last year, December was very mild and we didn’t get much accumulation for the first three weeks in December [of last year]," Thoman said.

Thoman is a climate scientist based in Fairbanks who, with the help of Bethel Search and Rescue, monitors the daily temperatures to figure out the impacts to the Kuskokwim River.

Regional temperatures are a big deal because Y-K Delta residents can only travel to other villages by water or by plane. In the past the river usually froze thick enough before December to allow for an ice road, but that hasn’t been the case for the last couple of years. 2017 was the warmest December on record for Alaska, and this year is still not cold enough to for thick ice to build up on the river. Bethel has substantial weather data from the airport dating back to the 1920s.

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