Melting Ice in the Warming Arctic

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September 14, 2011 7 p.m. local time

© 2010 Flickr/Vincent Lock cc by 2.0

Here’s a scary fact: In the last 50 years, Alaska has warmed twice as fast as the continental United States. And for a village that relies on “winter roads” (temporary roads made of ice and frozen ground), that temperature change is a serious matter.

Situated 33 miles north of the Arctic Circle on Alaska’s western coast, Kotzebue is a village of about 3,000 people. About 70% of the population of Kotzebue is Native Alaskan.

© 2007 Flickr/Peter Mulligan cc by 2.0

A service and transportation hub for much of the northwestern part of the state, Kotzebue relies on a cold winter to move goods, equipment, and people around Alaska. Milder winters and permafrost warming have cut the length of the winter road season by half in some parts of the state. By the middle of the century, the amount of land area in Alaska accessible by winter roads may decline by 29%.

As the thawing continues, Kotzebue and other villages in the region are struggling to manage the impacts not only on local ecosystems and industries, but on their roads and homes as well.


Larry Schweiger is President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Wildlife Federation. He took on the position in 2004 with a commitment to confront the climate crisis and to protect wildlife for our children’s future. Previously, Larry served for eight years as President and CEO of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, where he pioneered watershed restoration and promoted ecological research, land conservation and community outreach. Prior to that, Larry was the Executive Secretary of the Joint House/Senate Conservation Committee for the Pennsylvania General Assembly, Senior Vice President for Conservation Programs at National Wildlife Federation, and the first Vice President of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Larry is an active community leader, having served on more than 40 governing boards, commissions and committees. He currently serves on the Boards of Directors of The Climate Reality Project; the John Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment; the Blue Green Alliance; and National Wildlife Federation Action Fund. Larry is married and has three adult daughters, two sons-in-law, and three grandsons.