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The Northern Climate Observer


Merciless Rain - It was quite a year in Southeast Alaska. Very wet everywhere, but Ketchikan really distinguished itself, setting a summer precipitation record of 46 inches (119 cm). The Anchorage Daily News called it 'merciless' and 'the summer that wasn't.' UAF climate researcher Rick Thoman commented that the conditions were perfect, “above-normal ocean temperatures supplying more water and the storms to wring it out."

These conditions continued into the fall and winter. In early November, a blizzard delivered a one-day snowfall record of 16" (40 cm) burying everything from Haines to Whitehorse. Then in early December, things really began to unravel. Another storm brought 12 inches of rain over two days. This was followed by flooding and landslides across Southeast. One huge landslide in Haines swept homes away along with two residents. One might think that this was the result of one storm event, but continuous drenching for most of a year tells a bigger story. Clearly Southeast has joined the long list of northern Alaska communities vulnerable to the effects of warming and erosion.

So have other parts of the Circumpolar North. On December 18, after days of torrential rain, a series of landslides swept into Seydisfjordur, Iceland resulting in the evacuation of the entire town. On December 30, a landslide in Gjerdrum, Norway destroyed a neighborhood and left seven dead and three missing. As we contemplate 2021 and the emerging impacts of climate change, finding safe shelter in vulnerable communities should be a priority before the rains come again. Mike Brubaker, Editor

Haines, Alaska, United States
James Brooks / Anchorage Daily News / December 2, 2020

Nearly 12 inches of rain fell on the town of Pelican in 48 hours, and all-time records were set in Juneau, Skagway, Haines, Petersburg and Ketchikan. The City of Haines is sending alerts about the immediate danger of landslides.

Read article on Anchorage Daily News



Gjerdrum, Viken, Norway
Peter Stubley / The Independent / December 31, 2020

The tide of mud and clay destroyed as many as 14 houses in Ask in the municipality of Gjerdrum, some 30km north of Oslo. Hundreds were evacuated and police said 21 people living in the affected area were still unaccounted for.

Read article on The Independent



Seyðisfjörður, East, Iceland
Iceland Review / December 18, 2020

After a week of extreme rainfall, devastating landslides have hit the town of Seyðisfjörður in east Iceland. Another large mudslide hit several buildings in town around three pm, sweeping at least one building away.

Read article on Iceland Review



Oslo, Oslo, Norway
Louise Scharff Thommessen, Tiril Mettesdatter Solvang, Hallvard Nordum / NRK / December 28, 2020

Experts fear the future could be like the record year 2020: Shorter and warmer winters, wetter summers.

Read article on NRK



Provincetown, Massachusetts, United States
Cape Cod Times / January 2, 2021

Researchers document unusual find: 31 torpedo rays wash up on Provincetown beach just after Christmas.

Read article on Cape Cod Times



Salmon, Idaho, United States
ktvb.com / December 31, 2020

The cause of death is almost certainly acute Aspergillosis, a respiratory tract infection caused by a fungus commonly found in soil, dead leaves, moldy grain, compost piles, or in other decaying vegetation. Wildlife managers say the die-off seems to have stopped, likely due to the fungus source no longer being available.

Read article on ktvb.com



Withernsea, England, United Kingdom
BBC News / December 24, 2020

Up to 10 sperm whales have been stranded between Withernsea and Tunstall on the coast. Members of the coastguard and British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) are on the beach, between Tunstall and Withernsea, near Hull.

Read article on BBC News



The Northern Climate Observer is published weekly by the Center for Climate and Health. We track news coverage from across the circumpolar north and provide readers with a curated roundup of climate change related events. Thank you for reading our newsletter and for paying attention to our changing world.

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The Northern Climate Observer is published weekly by the Center for Climate and Health. We track news coverage from across the circumpolar north and provide readers with a curated roundup of climate change related events.

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