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Alaska is the Canary

The term "canary in the coal mine" refers to miners who used to take canaries in cages with them underground. If the bird expired, they would be warned that oxygen was running low and it was time to go back to the surface. When it comes to global warming, Alaska is the canary in the coal mine, because problems are showing up there first.

Lynn Melling reports for KTUU-TV that "From wildfires to floods to lightning strikes, it seems the weather this summer has been a hodgepodge of unusual events. Is it just circumstance, or a trend of things to come?"

This summer has been unusually hot so far, with temperatures in the 80s and 90s. There are more lightning storms than usual, as well as more forest fires and increasing floods, as glaciers melt. Gary Hufford, of the Alaska Weather Service, says, "The trends are saying yes, we're going to continue to warm. And, yes, as we continue to warm, we're going to start seeing strange types of events." There has even been a massive rock slide that killed a climber on Mount McKinley. "Was it, in fact, a slope that had been covered with ice and snow?" Hufford asks. "And we know we've had some major melts on some places on the mountain."

However, weather records in Alaska only go back about 80 years, so it's hard to know if the current weather is a major change or just an anomaly. Hufford says, "Oh, gosh, what I'd give for 200 years of temperatures across the state."

There are prophecies that predict the end of the world in 2009 or 2012. But do they mean the end of the Earth or the end of life as we now know it?





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