Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Climate Scientists Say Adapt to Change

Richard Thoman, a climate scientist addressing the attendees at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium in Anchorage, Alaska, said it is important that people start adapting to current conditions and prepare for changes to come.

To illustrate his point, Thoman, a climate specialist with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy (ACCAP), talked about breakwaters designed to protect ports and harbors that should be built not for today’s conditions but rather to withstand weather to come in the decades ahead.

Thoman joined ACCAP on the heels of his retirement from years as the climate science and services manager for the National Weather Service Alaska Region. ACCAP focuses on improving the ability of Alaskans to respond to rapid changes in climate. The entity also studies marine resources and assesses climate change related impacts on water availability, sea ice, wildfires and Alaska Native culture.

Elders with traditional knowledge today are validating the research work of marine scientists and others about the impact of warming oceans, the decline of sea ice, coastal flooding and erosion, changes to fisheries and more, Thoman said. He urged participants in the annual symposium to share what they have learned through their research with others, using social media as a tool to help people adapt to climate change.

Thoman was one of many speakers presenting at the symposium. Every year keynote speeches of topical interests are featured during the first two days of the meeting. This year’s presentations included talks about earthquakes, climate change and the scientific legacy of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Retired NOAA research chemist Jeff Short, speaking of the legacy of the 1989 Exxon disaster, said that funded research led to major discoveries regarding the effects of the spill, including the ecotoxicology of oil pollution, the persistence of oil, and long-term impairment of affected marine life populations. Those discoveries have informed damage assessments of every subsequent large oil spill worldwide, he said.

A free symposium app is available at

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