Alaska’s temperature has risen by 4 degrees Fahrenheit in the last 50 years, that’s compared with 2 degrees for the rest of the planet.
Yes that’s crazy! In 50 years, Alaska has warmed about 4 degrees Fahrenheit — that’s enormous, that’s epic,” Brettschneider said.
Standing on the Spencer Glacier the term “epic” feels appropriate. Especially when you consider getting to this place requires a train ride, paddling across an almost freezing lake and a lift from a helicopter.
But for University of Alaska climate researcher Brian Brettschneider, the remarkable view is overshadowed by the fact that rising temperatures are chipping away at the breathtaking glacier.
“In 50 years, Alaska has warmed about 4 degrees Fahrenheit — that’s enormous, that’s epic,” Brettschneider said.
If 4 degrees doesn’t sound like much, consider that the rest of the planet has risen only by 2 degrees in the last 50 years. At Spencer Glacier, that extra 2 degrees has been responsible for nearly 12 inches of surface-ice loss every day and the disappearance of some 100 feet off the glacier’s face each year.
July 4, when the temperature climbed to 90 degrees, was the hottest day ever in Anchorage, Alaska, sending residents out to sunbathe and splash in area lakes. Before that, an 85-degree day in 1969 held the record.
But unlike that hot day in 1953, this month’s record is not an anomaly, Brettschneider said. July 2019 is on pace to be the hottest on record in Alaska after record-setting years in 2015, 2016 and 2018.
Starting in the 1990s, Alaska began to set high-temperature records three times as frequently as record lows. By 2015, the rate of high-temperature records tripled to nine times as often.
Just last summer, Matt Szundy, owner of local outfitter Ascending Path, was able to help his guests onto the glacial ice by foot. In only a winter’s time, walk-on access to Spencer Glacier has been halted because of additional melt. Before, visitors used to kayak across a lake to reach the glacier’s face, strap on a pair of crampons and walk onto the ice. Now to see its majesty up close, they must board a helicopter.