Living on Alaska's Changing Coast:
Adapting to Climate Change in Coastal Alaska
Coastal Alaska is changing before our eyes. Some changes are dramatic, others subtle; some are rapid and others gradual; but there is no question that our coasts and our marine-dependent communities are undergoing profound change, much of it related to temperature, weather, and climate. People who live and work on and next to the sea are reporting many observations of a changing coast.
Scientists who study the oceans and coasts see indications that even greater change is coming between now and the end of this century. Some of the anticipated changes will be harmful to coastal residents, and some may be beneficial.
With thoughtful planning we can minimize the harm to our communities, businesses and lifestyles, and in some cases we may find ways to benefit from them.
How do we adapt?
Humans are adaptive creatures. As a species we have adapted to many kinds of change—environmental, social, economic and technological—throughout our history. We have adapted by developing technologies and by changing behaviors. Relocation to higher ground is an example of adaptation to flooding, as is construction of dikes and putting buildings on pilings.
Adaptation to future change, from sea level rise to ocean acidification and changes in the abundance and distribution of fish stocks, will take more sophisticated adaption, all set in motion by thoughtful adaptation planning.
Report on climate change and Alaska fisheries looks at long-term effects
Climate Change and Alaska Fisheries (available in hard copy or as a free PDF download) summarizes recent research and current thinking about the effects of long-term climate change on Alaska’s fisheries, which predicts that more profound change lies ahead. The study concludes that in 30 years most existing fisheries will continue to be productive, with some becoming smaller and others flourishing. Fishermen and communities will need to develop adaptive strategies in order to survive and prosper over the long haul.
The Norton Sound village of Shaktoolik faces serious threats of erosion and flooding resulting from climate change. With a grant from the National Sea Grant Program, Marine Advisory Program agent Terry Johnson and consultant Glenn Gray helped the community develop an adaptation plan.
How we can help
Take a look at the adaption tools, fact sheets and videos on these pages. If you have questions or would like us to meet with you or come to your community to talk about adaptation planning, contact Terry Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 907-274-9695, or Davin Holen at email@example.com or 907-274-9697.
If you encounter an unusual event or hazard on the coast, visit Encountering Environmental Hazards on Alaska’s Coasts for information on what to do and whom to contact.
available as free downloads from the Alaska Sea Grant Bookstore; some are also available as web pages (HTML)
- Fisheries Effects
- Harmful Algal Blooms
- Species Shifts
- Ocean Acidification (PDF)
- Climate Change and Subsistence (PDF)
- Sea Level Rise and Storm Surge (PDF)
- Permafrost Change (PDF)
Adaptation Planning Tools
PDFs available as free downloads from the Alaska Sea Grant Bookstore.
- Annotated Resources on Climate Change Adaptation for Alaska Communities
- Alaska Climate Change Adaptation Planning Tool [revised 4/13/11]
- "Adaptation Plan for This Community" template file [Microsoft Word document]
- Climate Change Adaptation Planning Manual for Coastal Alaskans and Marine-Dependent Communities [revised 4/13/11]
- Climate Change Adaptation Planning for Individuals and Communities [PDF of 24-slide PowerPoint presentation; 3 MB]