Seasons out of balance: climate change impacts, vulnerability and sustainable adaptation in interior Alaska

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Monday, 18 January 2010
Shannon McNeeley, NCAR, Boulder, CO

This poster reflects the community and stakeholder participatory nature of this research between scientists and Alaska Natives in the Koyukuk-Middle Yukon region of the remote northwest Alaskan Interior. The Koyukon Seasonal Round original sketch was hand drawn by a Koyukon youth, Travis Cole, after a community focus group in the village of Hughes in the spring of 2007 when McNeeley, Shulski, and Lehmkuhl-Bodony presented interim results of our climate data analysis to get community feedback and input for next stages of the research. The Koyukon Athabascan Elders are concerned about the changes they are witnessing in the sky and on the landscape because of recent decades of warming. Changes in weather patterns are resulting in seasonality shifts that are impacting fish and wildlife that they depend on for sustaining their livelihoods, which increases vulnerability. One critical resource in particular moose have changed their behavior during the early fall rut when subsistence hunters rely on successful harvests to provide community food security for the winter. Our analysis shows that 8 of the last 13 autumns had positive anomalies indicating a warming trend; and the autumns of 2005-2007 were the warmest three-year stretch on record, collectively exceeding the standard deviation of 2.9F for this time period. Local stakeholder proposals to shift the moose hunting season later to correspond with the seasonality shift have been met with resistance by the state and federal regulators of subsistence and wildlife policies, thereby limiting local adaptive capacity. Here we show the various changes observed by both indigenous observers and the instrumental weather stations during all seasons. These are just a small selection of the many seasonal changes experienced in recent decades in the Koyukuk-Middle Yukon region of Alaska.