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UA News for Dec. 15, 2022

In today's news: a third major storm once again leads to school and business closures in Southcentral Alaska; a new study examines the potential of whales to act as significant carbon sinks; today's stories from the 2022 American Geophysical Union fall meeting include a study of alder physiology and improved partnerships between scientists, communities and decision-makers; and a letter to the editor examines the importance of a university to its state's economy.


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4 Articles
Anchorage Daily News
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Anchorage schools closed again Friday after 3rd major storm deepens snow woes

Published Dec 15, 2022 by Zaz Hollander

A third major winter storm in about 10 days blanketed Southcentral Alaska in snow Thursday morning, closing public schools in Anchorage and Mat-Su and making driving treacherous.


As the snow tapered off early Thursday, the National Weather Service measured 9 inches of new snow at the agency’s Sand Lake offices -- and just over 41 inches in the past 11 days.


School districts in Anchorage and Mat-Su announced closures Wednesday evening as snow again fell across the region.


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The Washington Post
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Want to save the planet? Saving whales could help, scientists say.

Published Dec 15, 2022 by Rachel Pannett

Saving whales is probably a good way to save the planet, according to a group of scientists who examined the animals’ potential to act as a carbon sink — something that helps reduce carbon in the Earth’s atmosphere by absorbing more carbon than it releases.


Many nature-based solutions to fighting climate change have focused on the ability of trees and wetlands to capture and store atmospheric carbon dioxide. But in a paper published Thursday in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, a group of biologists explores the idea that whales can influence the amount of carbon in the air and in the ocean, potentially contributing to the overall reduction of atmospheric carbon dioxide.


“Understanding the role of whales in the carbon cycle is a dynamic and emerging field that may benefit both marine conservation and climate-change strategies,” wrote the authors, led by Heidi Pearson, a biologist from the University of Alaska Southeast.


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Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
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Learning to respect your alders

Published Dec 15, 2022 by UAF photo

In Alaska’s Arctic tundra, changes in permafrost, soil and plant growth due to climate change have been well documented. However, according to University of Alaska Fairbanks researcher Samuel Dempster, similar changes in the boreal forest are often overlooked.


Dempster’s goal is to see how alder physiology in the boreal forest responds to changing environmental conditions. The goal is to better understand how expansion of small trees and shrubs will affect large-scale processes in the North.

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Margaret Rudolf is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Alaska Fairbanks who works to improve partnerships between scientists, communities and decision-makers as they respond to climate change in Alaska. She uses a process known as coproduction of knowledge that integrates different knowledge systems and methods to understand the world around us.


This is important because there is a rising need for scientists, funding agencies and decision-makers to work with communities responding to extreme events. Wildfires, floods, coastal erosion and changes to sea ice are increasing in frequency and intensity, putting Alaska communities at risk. The demand for climate change information, and for the interpretation and application of this information, is escalating.


At the 2022 American Geophysical Union fall meeting, Rudolf will share her research examining how measures of success and worldviews are different between scientists and Indigenous communities. Deeper understanding of these differences will help build better partnerships to support adaptation needs of communities responding to environmental change.

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Anchorage Daily News
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Alaska needs a world-class university

Published Dec 14, 2022 by John Kennish

In reading the recent ADN commentaries by Charles Wohlforth, I realized how many dreams were destroyed by lack of vision in this state concerning the University of Alaska. The most significant losses were the opportunity to develop intellectual and economic opportunity and ultimately to help the state grow and retain many more talented students in the community.


The impact of educational institutions on development and continued vision is very clear, as demonstrated by urban institutions such as the University of Washington, which is a major driver of economic growth, creating prosperity and innovation in communities throughout Washington state. The University of Washington’s economic impact exceeds $15 billion per year. World-renowned education and research programs are provided at the Seattle, Bothell and Tacoma campuses.


But perhaps even more important has been the long-term contributions to new ideas generated in the state that have had major economic and personal growth of its citizens. Of course, this is only one of the many fine universities throughout the state of Washington. Many people come to Alaska for economic opportunity, but often leave once they have had success and return “home.” Opportunity for Alaska can only change when new arrivals come with a lifetime commitment to improve the lives of everyone in this state.


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