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Observations of climate change from indigenous Alaskans
Date:9/13/2011

Personal interviews with Alaska Natives in the Yukon River Basin provide unique insights on climate change and its impacts, helping develop adaptation strategies for these local communities.

The USGS coordinated interviews with Yup'ik hunters and elders in the villages of St. Mary's and Pitka's Point, Alaska, to document their observations of climate change. They expressed concerns ranging from safety, such as unpredictable weather patterns and dangerous ice conditions, to changes in plants and animals as well as decreased availability of firewood.

"Many climate change studies are conducted on a large scale, and there is a great deal of uncertainty regarding how climate change will impact specific regions," said USGS social scientist Nicole Herman-Mercer. "This study helps address that uncertainty and really understand climate change as a socioeconomic issue by talking directly to those with traditional and personal environmental knowledge."

By integrating scientific studies with indigenous observation, these multiple forms of knowledge allow for a more comprehensive understanding of the complex challenges posed by climate change. The indigenous knowledge encompasses observations, lessons and stories about the environment that have been handed down for generations, providing a long history of environmental knowledge. These observations can also help uncover new areas for scientists to study.

The Arctic and Subarctic are of particular interest because these high latitudes are among the world's first locations to begin experiencing climate change.

The most common statement by interview participants was about warmer temperature in recent years. It was observed to be warmer in all seasons, though most notably in the winter months. In previous generations, winter temperatures dropped to 40 degrees Celsius below freezing, while in present times temperatures only reach 25 C or 30 C below freezing. Moreover, in the rare c
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Contact: Jessica Robertson
jrobertson@usgs.gov
703-648-6624
United States Geological Survey
Source:Eurekalert

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