Robert Seitz: Climate, politics, and energy in Alaska

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By ROBERT SEITZ

The article printed in the Anchorage Daily News on May 23, “For Alaska politicians, renewable energy is about the economy not the environment,” was written as if the author thought the environment should be more important than the economy. 

My past commentaries have pointed out that a viable economy and the well being of the Alaska citizens during cold weather is much more important than counting carbon dioxide molecules and many other environmental concerns. We are in the habit of taking care of the environment, but no matter how much we can care about the environment, we must have a focus on the economy of Alaska and the energy of Alaska.

Without a viable economy there would not be enough people left in Alaska to produce enough CO2 to raise a plant during the summer. Without a viable economy, without an adequate supply of energy our environment would be at great risk. Trees would become the primary source of heat as long  for those people left in Alaska.

I’ve heard it said a number of times that Alaska is warming 2 to 4 times faster than the rest of the planet. Since I live here, and have for a long time, it has not seemed to me to be warming much at all. 

I did a little research. The USDA (US Department of Agriculture) has a statement on line at “Alaska and a Changing Climate” from the USDA Northwest Climate Hub:  “Alaska is at the forefront of climate change. Because of its northern latitude and seasonal changes in sea ice, the state is warming at two to three times the rate of the global average. Rising temperatures can be tied to most of the effects of climate change in Alaska. Reduced ice coverage, including shrinking glaciers, retreating sea ice, and thawing permafrost, are all serious impacts of rapid warming.”

I looked at some recent reports and recent data and found that they are comparing current annual average air temperatures with average annual air temperatures from the past. For years in which there are no extreme low temperatures (e.g. -30 to -60 degrees F) the average anomaly appears to 8 or 9 degrees, but the high temperatures for the year are pretty much what we are used to.  It is not that we have hotter weather; we just have less cold in the winter.  With the “less cold” winters there is some warming of the surface soil,  some deeper thawing (or less freezing) of the active layer into the upper portion of the permafrost and there has been some warming of permafrost to depth of 50 ft., but it is still frozen. 

I think there is some dishonesty in how data and information about Alaska are presented to the public. In other words, people are lying about the climate.

I had difficulty finding soil temperature measurement profiles, from the upper soil level, the active layer that freezes and thaws annually.  It looks like researchers are more focused on monitoring CO2 and methane in the upper soil layers, than they are of the temperature profile of the active layer. What I did demonstrate to myself is that Alaska is not warming 2 to 4 times faster than the rest of the planet. The past two winters also indicate that we may be getting some of our extreme cold back to balance out the years that weren’t so cold.  

Sean McDermott wrote a commentary, “There’s nothing radical about protecting the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska,” published in the Alaska Beacon May 23. His first sentence began with “With climate change rapidly reshaping the Arctic…”  

Aside from the eroding of river banks and coastal features along our shore line, I question whether there is rapid reshaping of the Arctic. We have had a warming that has extended the growing season and which also reduced some of our discontinuous permafrost in the southern areas of the State. McDermott compared the Northwest Arctic Boroughs push for heat pumps and solar power as more positive than advocating for future oil development. One has nothing to do with the other. Solar panels and heat pumps are a local issue that is being addressed because there is no central power source that can distribute energy to the remote communities. Oil and gas development is about Alaska’s economic viability. The solar panels, wind turbines ,and other alternative energy sources for remote communities in Alaska need to be paid for somehow, and a very active Alaska economy is a good way to do it.

And there is something radical about the change in the management of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. We’re seeing an extreme change from earlier policy that greatly affects Alaska’s ability to have some control over how it drives its economy. 

Alaska needs to provide some defense against the radical announcements about the condition of the Arctic and ensure that certain data are collected and maintained for those, who really care about conditions in Alaska, to refer to as daily decision are made.  The Data should be at least air temperature, soil temperature profiles (with active layer and permafrost, heating degree days, precipitation and snow depth.  Let’s find out if we really have a warming problem,

I’ll be discussing some of the other features of Alaska and the world which may demonstrate that we are not in danger from our weather.

And to reflect on this last legislative session, if there is one producer who would say that a reduced royalty payment for Cook Inlet Natural Gas would make all the difference such that they would be able to begin drilling new gas wells in Cook Inlet, then the legislature should be called into special session.   It would be for the good of Alaska.

Robert Seitz is an electrical engineer and lifelong Alaskan.

17 COMMENTS

  1. The damage to the environment caused by forcing a change to the widespread use of primitive solar and wind energy technology is catastrophic. The reliable energy systems have to be maintained anyway, as the “renewable” systems are not even developed for large scale use. Aside from destroying the economy, the “renewables” require massive subsidies which are unsustainable. Our debt to GDP is already at 125%, and that is using the inflated GDP model which counts 50% government spending. Take away the 50% of government spending and you have a monetary crisis upon us that no one has ever seen. There is no infrastructure in place to convert a whole nation over, and the components are made in China. A country we are accelerating to creating economic and hot wars with. Just look at what is happening in Germany currently and times the disaster by tenfold.

  2. I have been here 41 years, frost free weather is about 3 weeks longer now, one only has to look at Portage Glacier over the years to witness warmer weather. Ask any Alaskan Native, they have been living the weather for generatiopns

      • In fact, Franklin Glacier in British Columbia, as well as some big glaciers in Greenland, are advancing, although the legacy media is ignoring that as it doesn’t fit the official climate change narrative.

    • I have been here for 50 years, which is up to 48 years longer than all Alaska Natives younger than 49 years of age. Having conducted military analyses including climate, I happen to know that the National Weather Service has climactic data for Anchorage beginning in 1950. The Alaska Native community has zero recorded climactic data. Period. In 2001, a year in which I conducted official climactic analysis, the average annual snowfall for Anchorage for the preceding 51 years was 71″. From 2001 to 2024, that annual average has increased (per overwhelming reporting due to the past three years of wildly increased snowfall), not decreased, and it has increased significantly. The climate over the past three years of springs and autumns have crashed caribou calf recruitment statewide, yet another well documented and roundly published climactic fact from ADFG. Increased snowfall and severely cold, wet weather is not an indicator of warming. It is an indicatir of the opposite.
      The radical environmental ideology transitioned from “global warming” to “climate change” years ago when their silliness was exposed for what it was; Chicken Little hupe. You are way late to the new party.

      • Also, fishery biologists in Kodiak are warning Kodiak fishermen to expect a smaller than normal pink salmon harvest this year due to several years of colder ocean temperatures. The “climate change” narrative is slowly falling apart.

    • I came here in 1958. We have pictures of our family at Portage glacier. And yes, it has since receded. But what about a little seismic occurrence of 1964, epicenter about 30-40 miles east of Portage. Don’t suppose that caused a little disturbance to the glacial structure? Of course there is no political agenda that is fulfilled with earthquakes, at least not yet.

      • Your statement about the earthquakes rings with a lot of sense! I wonder what effect the Cantwell earthquake had or the Nov 2018, or the earthquakes up by Salcha or out by Sutton? Or how about east of Valdez – are those tremors going to cause some serious calving or landslides?

    • Frank- “Ask any Alaskan Native, they have been living the weather for generatiopns”. I worked for a number of years with the late Mike Leavitt, Barrow native, that in 2006 told me a story about when he was a kid in Barrow; In the 50’s he remembered it rained in Barrow in January. I guess everybody has a story.

    • The climate has always been changing since the earth was created. The obsession about climate has become cultic with data skewed and manipulated to suite a narrative that is really about power and control, and using fear to aid those ends.

    • Frank
      I have a simple test for you put water in a glass then invert ice cube.
      Now time how long it takes to melt the ice.
      Portage glacier water below above freezing temperatures that about sums it up it’s gonna melt. What’s not happening is it hasn’t snowed for 10,000 years and waited all down and made more new ice.

  3. Well written article but it will fall on deaf ears from those on the Left. You’ll simply be labeled as a climate denier.

  4. Agree Alaska needs an economy. Did you do any research at all before writing this? A simple search turns up monitoring of the arctic conditions you wanted monitoring back at least to the 1960’s. There are several entities doing this work. I have not looked at them in depth. I simply looks at the glaciers I skied in the 1980’s and see that they are gone.

  5. I have lived here for over 40 years and for 30 years of that time traveled most of the State. For the last couple of years, I have noted more and more snow staying on the mountains throughout the summer. To me, this is an indication of a cooling down period. There have been stronger and longer winds coming through the mountains. This past winter, in the Valley for one week, there was a blow where the wind speed was consistently above 25 knots. Is that because of projects like the mine in Kotzebue, where a mountain has been taken down or is it because of the HAARP experiments within the ionosphere? Or is it simply due to weather change? Personally, I think it is all related and has nothing to do with climate change, more so Man change. I have read articles concerning “cloud seeding” with microplastics. Are we doing that in this State? Hope not, hasn’t been much study on that process according to the latest Discover magazine. Maybe if Alaska’s climate is changing, it has nothing to do with the “earth” naturally, maybe “man” and his/her expermintation is creating the change. Just saying.

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