SOURCE: Anchorage Daily News

DATE: May 26, 2019

SNIP: Alaska’s wettest region is experiencing an extreme drought for the first time in recorded history, climate scientists say.

The southernmost portion of Southeast Alaska, including Ketchikan, Prince of Wales Island, Wrangell and Metlakatla, has been in a drought for the last two years, said Rick Thoman, a climatologist at the Fairbanks-based Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy.

Last week, though, the drought was updated to a D3, or “extreme” drought, the second-highest category the U.S. Drought Monitor measures. It’s the first time those conditions have ever been recorded in Alaska, according to the Drought Monitor.

Meanwhile, areas experiencing lesser “severe” and “moderate” droughts on the Panhandle have expanded, the Drought Monitor said.

Although this week represents the first time an “extreme” drought classification has ever been recorded in Alaska, it’s likely not the first the region has ever seen, climatologists caution. Similar deficits were measured in the early 1990s — before the U.S. Drought Monitor was established — and episodically throughout the 2000s.

The drier conditions have also caused ecological damage, including an increase in insect pests like the saw fly, damage to coastal foliage and warmer stream temperatures that may inhibit salmon spawning, climatologists said.