STORY: The Point Barrow Observatory, just outside the Inupiat Eskimo village of Barrow, Alaska, sits on a desolate stretch of empty tundra, overlooking the Arctic Ocean to the north and the Arctic Coastal Plain to the south. A smattering of antennas and a few small buildings don't seem like much when viewed against the vast surrounding tundra. Yet when people point to evidence of climate change, chances are the data was collected here. Dan Endres is the observatory's station chief.
ENDRES: "There are over 40 projects that we run directly or are indirectly responsible for: everything from measuring C02 (carbon dioxide) and methane, to measuring the chloroflourocarbons (CFCs) and aerosols and solar radiation. Basically everything we measure are constituents that may force climate change."
Since the station opened in 1973, it's been the only year-round vantage for scientists to measure climate change in the U.S. Arctic. Endres has worked at the station for 20 years, helping scientists from all over the world set up their experiments. And when they go home, it falls to Endres to watch over the experiments through the harsh Arctic winter. Firsthand experience has caused Endres to believe that the Arctic is getting warmer.
ENDRES: "Something is definitely going on. The last three or four winters have been incredibly mild here. It doesn't seem that we've had anywhere near the number of blizzards that we usually get. It doesn't seem to be getting quite as cold. We may hit 40 below zero a couple of times over the course of the winter now. I can remember times when it would easily hit 40 below or more and stay that way for several days at a time."
Many scientists believe the Arctic will change dramatically if the climate gets too warm, too quickly. Endres says the long-term data scientists have collected at the station indicate that climate warming is already under way.
ENRES: "The 28-year temperature record that we have here does show about a point-one degree Celsius increase per year. Mostly in the increasing winter minimum. We don't see summer temperatures changing so much, but it's not getting as cold in the winter. We're also seeing the snow melt anywhere from seven to 10 days earlier than it did 20 years ago."
The Point Barrow Observatory is run by the NOAA Climate Modeling and Diagnostic Lab in Boulder, Colorado.
OUTRO: This is Arctic Science Journeys Radio, a production of the Alaska Sea Grant Program and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. I'm Doug Schneider.
Thanks to the following individual for help preparing this script:
Dan Endres, Station Chief
Arctic Science Journeys is a radio service highlighting science, culture, and the environment of the circumpolar north. Produced by the Alaska Sea Grant College Program and the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
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