In the summer of 2015 Crater Lake National Park (CRLA) hosted a research fellow with the George Melendez Wright Young Leaders in Climate Change program; Donal O’Leary, then a Masters student in Geography at Western Washington University, examined the link between two of Crater Lake’s prized resources: snowpack and alpine plants.
The length and warmth of the growing season is changing in arctic Alaska, with important implications for wildlife and overall ecosystem productivity. The NPS in Alaska is using eMODIS (EROS MODIS) weekly composite satellite images of Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), a measure of vegetation greenness, to monitor vegetation.
Water clarity is a key water-quality property in salmon-bearing lakes. Decreases in water clarity due to increases in glacial runoff have been shown to reduce salmon production by lowering the abundance of prey such as zooplankton. NPS water clarity data were recently combined with Landsat remote sensing data to hindcast turbidity trends in Lake Clark, Alaska, for a 30-year time period (1985–2014). Lake Clark is a glacially influenced nursery lake for sockeye salmon, located in the headwaters of Bristol Bay, the most productive wild salmon fishery in the world.
The current rapid retreat of glaciers in Kenai Fjords National Park (KEFJ) results in dramatic landscape change on a shorter time scale than is observed in many other parts of the country. Park scientists and managers monitor this change not only to understand shifts in ecosystem dynamics but also to address potential impacts to the visitor experience. Many visitors to Alaska plan their trip with the expectation of viewing a glacier, preferably through an up-close and personal experience.
Reductions in the duration of annual lake ice cover in Alaska are expected to produce profound environmental changes. These include biological productivity changes in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, reduced albedo, and shifts in the timing of ice-jam flooding – all of which impact human activities including transportation and subsistence. The duration and seasonality of lake ice is sensitive to wind, air temperature, and snow accumulation and is correlated with climate variability and change.
A heavy rain event on August 18, 2015, triggered two landslides in the southeastern Alaska community of Sitka.