Freak storms, big winds, and caribou and reindeer die-offs

Arctic Sea Ice Reaches Another Record Low
Arctic Sea Ice Reaches Another Record Low

On March 7, 2017, Arctic sea ice reached its annual wintertime maximum extent, according to scientists at the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Cente...


Climate change will continue to grab headlines in 2019

John Tetpon

Climate change will continue to grab headlines in 2019 as Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson takes over the House Natural Resources Committee and newly elected U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York pushes new legislation that calls for 100-percent of U.S. electricity to be generated from clean sources within the next decade, an investment in energy efficiency and renewables, and a provision of training for jobs in a new green economy. 

And while the Democrats this month blocked Ocasio-Cortez’s push for a select committee on the Green New Deal, activists and progressive politicians say they will continue the fight. The proposal is expected to be a major issue in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election.

Meanwhile, newly published reports say arctic caribou and reindeer populations continue to plummet, and Arctic ice continues to melt at an alarming rate, this from a brand new report dated December 27, 2018.

Pictured here is a photos from 2016 of the Arctic Sea ice that shows what scientists have long predicted – that climate change and global warming is a real threat to our world.

Another report from November 2016 said melting Arctic sea ice caused 80,000 reindeer to die in Siberia when an ice sheet several inches thick covered the tundra and caused the animals to starve to death. They could not kick their way through the ice to get to their food stock, the lichens and grasses under the ice, the report said.

The report added that the tragic starvation event followed an uncommon lightening blast that killed 323 reindeer in Norway. “We are not familiar with any previous happening on such a scale,” Kjartan Knutsen, said an official at the Nature Inspectorate, part of the Norwegian Environment Agency


“Individual animals do from time to time get killed by lightning, and there are incidents where sheep have been killed in groups of 10 or even 20, but we have never seen anything like this.”

An extremely high discharge of freak weather related electricity from a storm and the interaction of the lightning with the earth and water — had electrocuted the animals. The report is attributed to the New York Times.

Here in Alaska and Canada, caribou stocks have dwindled at an alarming rate, researchers say. Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials say while

they are unwilling to point directly at climate change as the cause, they can find no other reason for the die-off. The size of the Central Arctic herd peaked at about 70,000 in 2010 and fell to 50,000 in 2013, fish and game officials said. Surveys suggest the herd dwindled to about 22,000 caribou this year. That’s more than half of the herd gone.

With that kind of evidence at the forefront of climate change, and with trust in older political leaders lacking, young people around the world have gotten into the climate change fray in a big way.

When 15-year-old Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg stood up at the December 2018 United Nations climate change talks in Poland, she delivered a stinging message to negotiators and diplomats: “We have not come here to beg world leaders to care,” she said. “You have ignored us in the past and you will ignore us again. … We have come here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people.”

Thunberg has become a leader for her generation’s steadfast stance for action.

Freak storms along the Alaska coastline have occurred from time to time and the evidence is there. In the 1950s, a small group of us trekked about 10-miles inland from the seashore to view such evidence. My grandfather Herbert Tetpon of Shaktoolik owned and operated a freighting boat he had named the Mayflower, after the ship used by the pilgrims.

Sure enough, there it was, a “one lunger” as Dad called it, a single piston engine weighing about two-tons aboard a rotting hull that has sat there for decades. It had been heaved upon high ground by a raging sea once upon a time.

That was a long time ago. Today, we are seeing fierce snowstorms across the U.S., tornadoes, severe winds, and floods that have taken whole cities in the South. These are indeed new and alarming days.

John Tetpon, Inupiaq, is a longtime Alaska journalist, musician and artist. His email: