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Heat Wave Here's a riddle. What do you get when you heat up the Pacific? Answer - a typhoon ... in the Arctic! That is just what happened last week when Typhoon Merbok delivered one of the earliest and most damaging storms that anyone can remember. This warm and wayward typhoon, which generated 50-foot waves in the Bering Sea, flooded whole communities, displaced families and destroyed homes. It was terrifying. It also compromised carefully put away food stores, and the boats, ATVs and subsistence infrastructure needed to replace it. Food insecurity has arrived in a very real way in Western Alaska. Here is where the story takes an interesting twist. Only a week before the storm, we were talking about the unusually warm water in western Alaska. It was at our quarterly One Health Group meeting, where one of the feature topics was the unprecedented concentrations of harmful algae that had been recently measured in Norton Sound. As climate scientist Rick Thoman pointed out, the coastal summer sea surface temperatures in Norton Sound (and extending south all the way to Bristol Bay) had been a full 5 to 7 degrees warmer than normal! Based on the Alexandrium algae levels in seawater, scientists from the research vessel Norseman II worked with the State of Alaska, Alaska Sea Grant and the Norton Sound Health Corporation to put out a public advisory urging caution for anyone consuming shellfish. Enter Typhoon Merbok, which along with storm surge delivered a bounty of ... wait for it ... clams to some western Alaska beaches. One such beach was near the community of Mertarvik in the southern reaches of the storm zone. Their bumper clam harvest came to light in a LEO Network post on September 18, shared by Jackie Schaeffer. Mertarvik is located in the YK, a region that has experienced severe food insecurity for the past two years due to declines in salmon runs. So a harvest of clams is now more than ever, reason to celebrate. In the LEO Post, we alerted regional health officials of the situation with HABs up north, and shared the advisory with Mertarvik and other communities. Thankfully, we have not heard of anyone getting sick from shellfish consumption in this area. A lot did happen when we warmed up the Pacific; and as it turns out, also the Atlantic. You can read about Hurricane Fiona that just pummeled Newfoundland and Labrador in very much the same way. This September has been a huge and painful lesson on how these different and yet connected events, driven by climate change, add up to a surprising variety of community health threats and challenges. Let’s hope we are not surprised again. Mike Brubaker, Editor

Nome, Alaska, United States
Diana Haecker / The Nome Nugget / August 17, 2022

Researchers stepping off the research vessel Norseman II in Nome last weekend, brought significant news of having found very high concentrations of a phytoplankton called Alexandrium catenella in regional waters. Alexandrium is an algae that can produce saxitoxins, which can cause dangerous paralytic shellfish poisoning in people. The scientists issued an advisory, notifying Norton Sound Health Corporation, UAF Sea Grant and the Alaska Division of Public Health.

Read article on The Nome Nugget



Bering Sea
Rick Thoman / ArcticToday / September 21, 2022

The powerful remnants of Typhoon Merbok pounded Alaska’s western coast on Sept. 17, 2022, pushing homes off their foundations and tearing apart protective berms as water flooded communities. Storms aren’t unusual here, but Merbok built up over unusually warm water. Its waves reached 50 feet over the Bering Sea, and its storm surge sent water levels into communities at near record highs along with near hurricane-force winds.

Read article on ArcticToday



Hooper Bay, Alaska, United States
KYUK - Bethel / KTOO / September 22, 2022

The storm could have threatened the town’s winter subsistence stock if not for the work of local power plant operators.

Read article on KTOO



Mertarvik, Alaska, United States
Jacqualine Schaeffer and Bob Gerlach / LEO Network / September 18, 2022

Storms can bring a bounty to the beach - driftwood sometimes or in this case, clams! But be careful out there. There are new concerns about emerging levels of harmful algae in Western Alaska waters, which could impact shellfish and human health.

Read post on the LEO Network



Channel-Port aux Basques, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Rosalyn Roy / Saltwire.com /

'We did what we could to prepare, and still, we were underprepared'. Harvey’s assessment is much uglier in the daylight. Much of the town looks like it took a point-blank blast from an army tank. The photos do little to capture the sheer shock of local residents, especially those who lost their homes. Some are a bit more stoic than others, focused on rebuilding. Others are understandably much more raw and emotional, dissolving into tears while passerby rush to comfort them.

Read article on Saltwire.com



Klukshu, Yukon, Canada
Matt Meise / CBC / September 22, 2022

The number of sockeye returning to Klukshu, Yukon, to spawn began to drop off in the 1990s. This year, hundreds of the bright red fish line the small creek that winds through the village.

Read article on CBC



Fairbanks, Alaska, United States
Sofie Bates / Phys.org / September 22, 2022

Permafrost is ground that stays frozen year round; the permafrost in interior Alaska also has massive wedges of actual ice locked within the frozen ground. When that ice melts, the ground surface collapses and forms a sinkhole that can fill with water. Thus, a thermokarst lake is born. At first glance, Big Trail looks like any lake. But look closer and there's something disturbing the surface: bubbles.

Read article on Phys.org



Luke Carrol / CBC / September 25, 2022

Yukon's North Klondike Highway is open to single lane of traffic after multiple landslides closed the road in two sections for days. 

Read article on CBC



The Northern Climate Observer is published by the Center for Climate and Health. We track news coverage from across the circumpolar north and provide readers with a curated roundup of climate change related events. Thank you for reading our newsletter and for paying attention to our changing world.

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The Northern Climate Observer is published weekly by the Center for Climate and Health. We track news from across the circumpolar north and provide readers with a curated roundup of climate change related events.

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