SOURCE: The Guardian
DATE: June 14, 2019
SNIP: A city in western Alaska has lost a huge stretch of riverbank to erosion that may turn it into an island, amid renewed warnings from scientists over the havoc triggered by the accelerating melting of the state’s ice and permafrost.
Residents of the small city of Akiak were alarmed to find the Kuskokwim River suddenly much closer to housing after about 75-100ft of riverbank disappeared over the course of just a few hours.
The erosion, which occurred late last month, stripped away the riverbank for the entire length of Akiak, which has a population of around 340.
“The changes are really accelerating in Alaska,” said Susan Natali, a scientist and Arctic expert at the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts. “It’s pretty likely this riverbank in Akiak was lost because of thawing permafrost, given where it’s situated and the warm winter and spring they’ve had. It’s not a problem that’s going to go away.”
Alaska has just experienced its warmest spring on record, breaking a record only set in 2016. Since the 1970s, springtime in the state has heated up by around 2.2C (4F), double the global temperature rise of the past century.
Scientists recently found [thawing permafrost] could trigger a dangerous acceleration of global heating that would cause tens of trillions of dollars in climate-related damage. A separate study found that parts of the Canadian Arctic are experiencing a rate of permafrost thaw six times the long-term average.