Climate Change in Alaska Opens Window to the Past

Warming temperatures are remaking the Alaskan landscape.

Sea ice is shrinking, permafrost is melting, glaciers are retreating, polar bears are changing their habits. In Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, the warming trend is opening a window into the past, as melting glaciers are revealing artifacts from both the somewhat recent past and prehistoric cultures.

As a result of climate change, rare archaeological materials are melting from ancient glaciers around the world. Spectacular organic artifacts include prehistoric bows and arrows, spears, hunting tools, baskets, clothing, and even human remains. These unusual discoveries—preserved and frozen in ice for thousands of years—provide an unprecedented glimpse into the lives of ancient people and have captured public attention around the world. Discoveries in Wrangell St.-Elias National Park and Preserve provide new insights into cultural development and highlight the exceptional craftsmanship and genius of early people in Alaska.

That's the opening paragraph of a story by researchers E. James Dixon, Craig M. Lee,
William F. Manley, Ruth Ann Warden, and William D. Harrison. You can find the rest of the story in a file at the bottom of this post.

Much more climate-change research is ongoing in Alaska's national parks. In Denali, studies are focused on glaciers. In Glacier Bay, the work is examining "glacial rebound," a phenomenon in which uplifting of the ground is believed related to retreating glaciers. This story also can be found in an attached file below.

For other stories on climate-change research in Alaska's national parks, check out this site.

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WRST-Artifacts.pdf600.39 KB
GLBA-Uplift.pdf512.01 KB