The Weatherman At The End Of The Western World

Wednesday, October 21 2015

William Wells releases a weather balloon on Alaska's St. Paul Island. KUCB/John Ryan photo.

William Wells lives and works at what may be the nation's most remote weather station. It's 300 miles off the west coast of Alaska (and 500 miles off the east coast of Siberia) in the Bering Sea. Even by St. Paul Island standards, his station is remote: it's off by itself, a few miles away from the village of 400 people who call St. Paul home.

Each afternoon, he walks from his office into a two-story-tall garage to fill up a six-foot-wide balloon with hydrogen gas.

Dutch Harbor Rats (Unwillingly) Help Save Pribilof Seabirds From Their Kind

Thursday, October 15 2015

A rat trap outside the Trident Seafoods plant on St. Paul Island. KUCB/John Ryan photo.

Biologists and tribal officials in the Bering Sea off the west coast of Alaska are working to protect one of the world's greatest gatherings of seabirds. With a little unwilling help from wharf rats in Alaska's Dutch Harbor, the nation's busiest fishing port, they aim to keep rats as far away as Seattle from devouring the birds of the rat-free Pribilof Islands.

The Pribilofs -- a handful of treeless islands in the Bering Sea 300 miles from the Alaskan mainland -- are famous for their millions of seabirds. They turn the islands' sea cliffs into noisy multi-species cities each summer, as heard in this recording from St. Paul in 1968.

The Aleutians: Sea Stars’ Last Best Hope?

Friday, September 18 2015

Biologist Ian Hewson with a striped sun star. Photo courtesy Elliot Jackson.

Starfish from Mexico to Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula have been hammered by a wasting disease that causes their arms to melt into goo and fall off.

Researchers believe a virus called a densovirus is behind the widespread outbreak.

Cornell University microbiologist Ian Hewson has come to one of the last starfish strongholds, the Aleutian Islands, to suss out what makes this disease so virulent.

Aleutian Islands’ Ancient Villages, Volcanoes Slowly Reveal Their Secrets

Thursday, September 17 2015

Whitman College geologists studying Mt. Carlisle. Photo courtesy Kristen Nicolaysen.

Scientists flock to the Aleutians every summer to study the islands’ rich wildlife, long history and active volcanoes.

For the past two summers, an interdisciplinary team has visited the Islands of the Four Mountains, in the central Aleutians, to study how resilient the earliest settlers had to be to live there thousands of years ago.

Among many finds this summer, archeologists dug up two slate ulus (crescent-shaped knives) on one of their digs on Chuginadak Island. They think the find means these ancient seafaring people were somehow trading or acquiring goods from as far as Kodiak, 700 miles away. There are no known sources of slate in the Aleutians.

CO2 From Arctic Ocean Oil Could Swamp Obama's Climate Efforts

Tuesday, September 08 2015

President Barack Obama meets with Kotzebue residents during his three-day tour of Alaska. (Photo by Eric Keto/Alaska Public Media)

Throughout President Obama’s tour of Alaska last week, he spoke at length about efforts to reduce the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. He spoke very little about his support for drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean.

The drilling policy could affect the global climate much more than any of Obama’s climate-friendly initiatives.

The president wrapped up his climate-change tour of Alaska in Kotzebue, just above the Arctic Circle.

Alaskan Greens: Obama’s Words, Actions Conflict On Climate Change

Sunday, August 30 2015 video screenshot

President Barack Obama’s visit to Alaska this week, aimed at highlighting his push to fight climate change, comes just two weeks after his administration approved drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean. Some Alaskan environmentalists see a disconnect between the president's rhetoric and his actions on climate change. 

The Obama administration hopes the Alaska trip—Obama arrives in Anchorage Monday afternoon—will help sell the president’s proposals to rein in America’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Fur Seal Numbers Boom on Aleutians' Remote Bogoslof Island

Thursday, August 20 2015

Northern fur seal pups on St. Paul Island, Alaska. NOAA photo.

Northern fur seals have been declining for decades in their stronghold on St. Paul Island in Alaska’s Pribilof Islands, but their numbers are taking off on Bogoslof Island, a couple hundred miles to the south.

A team of scientists with the National Marine Fisheries Service has been camped out on isolated, mile-long Bogoslof, just north of the Aleutian chain, trying to piece together why. 

Obama Administration Approves Arctic Ocean Oil Drilling

Monday, August 17 2015

The Polar Pioneer rig in the Chukchi Sea on Aug. 5. Shell Oil photo.

The Obama administration has approved drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean.

On Monday the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement gave final approval to Shell Oil to drill into oil-bearing rocks in the Chukchi Sea about 70 miles northwest of the village of Wainwright, Alaska. The decision gives the company until late September—about six weeks—to complete this summer’s exploratory drilling. 

Climate Change, Not Arctic Drilling, Drives Obama Trip To Alaska

Friday, August 14 2015 video screenshot

President Barack Obama is coming to Alaska later this month.

The White House released a video Thursday morning to explain why he will be the first sitting president to visit Alaska’s Arctic. 

The folksy video (it starts with the President of the United States saying, “Hi, everybody”) features dripping glaciers, raging wildfires and Alaska Natives hanging salmon to dry.

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