SNAP Offers Excellent Resources for Climate Change Planning – Take a Look!

February 21, 2014

Nancy Fresco spoke at the 16th Annual AFE conference in Anchorage on February 5th, and she had some interesting information to share related to climate change that I’d like to share with you.  Nancy works as the Network Coordinator for SNAP (Scenarios Network for Alaska and Arctic Planning). To find out more about the specifics of SNAP, please visit their website at  Scenario planning basically takes “what we know”, combines it with the uncertainties we face, and plans for multiple futures.  Part of Nancy’s talk at AFE focused on how Alaska is changing, and the differences in the change among the various regions of the state.  So how IS Alaska Changing?  How will climate change impact our daily lives and environments?

Shifting vegetation – there is a northward and upward moving trend in the treeline, and habitat loss is occurring from the encroachment of invasive plant species.  What exists today as climate linked biomes (or large areas of habitat types/plant species) may undergo severe changes during the next century. 

 Oceans – arctic sea ice and shore fast ice are shrinking, while summer is lengthening.  This is heavily publicized topic – what isn’t as frequently talked about? – ocean acidification.  The absorption of CO2 into the ocean is causing ocean acidification; species like the pteropod are very sensitive to this change.  This can be problematic, for example: the pteropod makes up 50% of juvenile pink salmon diet.  Imagine what will happen to them if half of their food supply is endangered.

Wildlife – as habitats change, this will benefit some species and hurt others.  Some species will need to move to new territories, thus threatening resident species.  Imagine if your neighbor just decided to move into your living room! How would you react?

Thawing Ice and Soils – as we have all read about and seen pictures of, glaciers are receding.  The loss of sea ice will remove habitat for wildlife like polar bears and seals.  Also having a great impact on the state is the thawing of permafrost.  Loss of permafrost could contribute to the drying of wetlands, stream and lakes, not to mention the damage that could occur to infrastructure.

Human livelihood – traditional hunting, fishing, and gathering patterns may change or disappear all together.  Not all change is bad – farmers and gardeners could see an expansion with new crops made possible by a lengthening growing season.

As you can see, the future is a great unknown.  This has really always been the case, but it’s made that much more concerning with the introduction of the topic of climate change.  SNAP has a great number of tools available for communities to use when discussing planning for climate change.  One such tool is the community chart feature available at  Just by typing the name of your community into the search box, you can view past, current and projected temperature and precipitation data for your community.

An example of Georgetown and Aniak data follows, here’s how to read the charts:  All of the months of the year are across the bottom, and in each month there are bars for different time periods, ranging from past years (1961-1990) to current (2010-2019) to future ( 2090-2099).  The bars represent the amount of precipitation or temperature to expect during that month. This allows you to see what you can expect in each month of the year in your community, as related to previous years.   Take a look at Georgetown’s average monthly temperature chart. 

You can see that in the past and even now – April tends to be below freezing in temperatures.  Take a look at the future bars though- they indicate that April will no longer have below freezing temperatures.  How would that affect your family? Your community?  The precipitation chart for Aniak is shown here as well.  When you are discussing climate change and how to plan to future, or if you aren’t sure if you will be affected – just take a look at the website and look up your community – it’s a really fast way to get some really telling information.

For more information, contact Nancy by e-mail at nlfresco@alaska.eduor by phone at (907) 474-2405.