Researchers 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle are looking for signs of global warming, because they?ll show up here first. “?We’re just getting to the point of understanding what is normal,” says researcher John Hobbie. “Now we’re looking for changes due to climate change. Climate changes are going to happen here first. Up here they’re subtle, but they’re here all the same.”
Pesticides tend to settle in the Arctic as well. Chemicals used in industry and agriculture all over the world slowly migrate to the cold areas of the Earth, where they’re stored in water, snow, ice, soil and vegetation. Researcher Amanda Grannas, of Ohio State University, says, “Such pollutants are now being found in wildlife, from fish to seals to whales, and even in people living in the Arctic.”
She’s discovered that the pesticides lindane and hexachlorobenzene (HCB) are both found in large quantities in Arctic waters, despite the fact that HCB was banned in the U.S. in 1984. Farmers in the U.S. use lindane to treat seeds prior to planting.
Amanda Onion writes in abcnews.com about John Hobbie, who set up the Alaskan Toolik research site in 1975 in order to record long-term data on changes in tundra, water flow and wildlife. It’s a group of trailers in the foothills of the Brooks Mountain Range that was originally used by workers constructing the Dalton Highway, which runs parallel to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Now 200 researchers go there every summer and study local conditions in order to predict future climate change around the world. Over the past century, the planet has warmed by about 1 degree Fahrenheit. At the Toolik site, and in other regions of the Arctic, warming has increased about 6 degrees over the last 30 years. One of the most obvious effects of global warming can be seen in icebergs?98% of the glaciers and sea ice on Alaska’s coast are melting.
There are changes on land as well. Researcher Ken Tape compared 50-year-old photographs with recent ones taken from low-flying aircraft and discovered that the tree line in Alaska’s Arctic is slowly moving north and shrubs are becoming more abundant, which is bad for the caribou there. “Caribou don’t like to eat tussocks or birch,” says plant ecologist Jim Laundre. “Birches have crystal resins on their stems to fight off grazers like the caribou.”
Other scientists are studying the changes in Toolik Lake, and think the local trout population may not be able to survive a warmer future. “We already know in years when it’s very warm and dry, there is very little water flow and when the temperatures are high the adults don’t do well,” says researcher Jon Benstead.
The Arctic is gradually changing from a cold, pristine wilderness to a region of oil fields and a natural chemical dump. It predicts the future in more ways than one.
Whitley and Art Bell accurately predicted the future in The Coming Global Superstorm?soon to be a major motion picture.
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