Climate impacts in Unalakleet, Alaska

The young people of Unalakleet interviewed their local elders about the changes in climate and environment that they have witnessed in their lifetimes.

Watch the video below that the students recorded or read some of the elder's quotes below.
A student interviews a Unalakleet elder about the changes in climate that she has witnessed in her ... / ©: Henry Oyoumick
A student interviews a Unalakleet elder about the changes in climate that she has witnessed in her lifetime.
© Henry Oyoumick

Different species

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 4th Assessment Report (2007) the kinds of plants, insects and animals in the Arctic will change as existing arctic species move further north and invading species arrive from the south. This pole-ward migration will also increase the spread of animal-transmitted disease in the Arctic.
 / ©: Amber
Amber, a high school student in Unalakleet, Alaska reports on an increase in insects previously unseen in this region.
© Amber
Mary Brown: "We have a bird book and we look up different animals that we see and sure enough we have the Chickadee and the owl, Screech Owl. We also have the Arctic Wobbler."

Fran: "In my great grandfather's time the only place that had willows was at the old army site. This was all grasslands. There was very little trees or anything."

Foote : "The bears were much bigger than they are now. Also the beaver were bigger."

Theresa: "People used to hunt seals on top of the ice. Now we don't have much ice. It melts earlier than it used to."

Charles: "I've seen little ants and grasshoppers. And when it gets hot out when 1 was younger 1 saw this big bug that was like those Lifesavers, you know rainbow colors. Different things come up out of the ground when it gets hotter. They're temperature sensitive."

Fran Degnan:  "We had a lot of snow so we had a lot of berries and fish. Today you don't see much snow."

Change in weather

According to the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, many coastal communities face increasing exposure to storms. Severe coastal erosion will be a growing problem as rising sea level and a reduction in sea ice allow higher waves and storm surges to reach the shore.
A home sits perilously close to the water's edge. Unalakleet, Alaska. / ©: Native Village of Unalakleet
A home sits perilously close to the water's edge. Unalakleet, Alaska.
© Native Village of Unalakleet
Fran Degnan: "We have more storms. The weather is highly unpredictable and the laws are ever changing and working against subsistence."

Mary Brown: "It's not as cold as it used to be and you don't hardly see people wearing those beautiful mukluks."

Leonard Brown: "It gets too warm in the winter and too cold in the spring and we get too much wind. We get a lot of southwestern wind. Its something new. I don't remember having southwest wind. We always had east wind. We kind of lost it lately."

Changes in environment

According to the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment: "Damage to infrastructure will result from permafrost thawing and coastal erosion...Thawing will hinder land transport in winter. Traditional local economies based on resouirces that are vulnerable to climate chage are very likely to be disrupted by warming."
Riverbank erosion undermines a road. Unalakleet, Alaska. / ©: Native Village of Unalakleet
Riverbank erosion undermines a road. Unalakleet, Alaska.
© Native Village of Unalakleet
Leonard Brown: "Our beaches are eroding. That's the difference. It's mostly negative."

Charles Degnan:  "The ice doesn't get as thick as it did when I was a boy. We don't get as much snow as before. It's harder to tell the forecast weather now just by looking at the sky and your surroundings."

Charles Degnan:  "Storms come up faster in the fall time. We have higher water now."

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required