University of Fairbanks study finds increasing winds in northwest Alaska

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) Winds along Alaska’s northwestern coasts are increasing at an alarming rate, according to a new study from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

John Walsh discusses the doubling of high wind events in the Nome area. (Carly Sjordal, KTVF)

Researchers Sarah Pearl and Kyle Redilla analyzed data from airports across the state from the past thirty years during the study, with a focus on western Alaska

They used the observations, along with simulations by two global climate models, to predict future changes in wind. They found that there was a severe increase in high wind events along Alaska’s north western coasts.

John Walsh, the Research Professor at the International Arctic Research center says that the wind increases are happening at the worst part of the state for the impacts of events -- such as waves, coastal flooding and erosion. “This is in western and northern Alaska. These are the areas where the ice cover is retreating. The combination of more storms and less ice cover to protect the coast means that the coastline will be more vulnerable,” said Walsh.

Storms in these regions, according to the study, have already been increasing over the past few decades. As said in a press release by UAF, the strong winds that affected Nome and much of northwestern Alaska during the Thanksgiving week of 2019 were driven by the type of storm that the study identified.

“There’s roughly been a doubling of high wind events in the Nome area, [and] the increase is projected to be anywhere from 10 or 20 percent, up to 50 percent by the end of the century,” said Walsh.

The research team is planning to produce a website where users can log in, enter their location, and the types of events that they’re interested in -- such as historical events and projected future changes in wind events.

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