National Drought Mitigation Center

National Drought Mitigation Center
subscribe to rss

Drought impacts in southeast Alaska
10/11/2018 12:00:00 AM

Plants & Wildlife
Water Supply & Quality
Prince of Wales-Outer Ketchikan Census Area, AK
Metlakatla, AK

Start Date: 10/8/2018 - End Date: 10/11/2018
These are some of the drought impacts being experienced around the Metlakatla area. Creeks/Streams and other water bodies Hemlock and Nadzaheen, Crab Creek all have low water levels and high water temps, resulting in what have been record low returns and low salmon fry survival. No specific scientific proof but it appears that high water temps in creek is likely reducing survival of salmon fry, based on observations of Fish and Wildlife staff for the last several years. This is Likely happening in all creeks, as they have observed decreases in returns in all creeks island wide. Ocean water temps have been significantly warmer- this is impacting herring migratory behavior. If you need additional backup, Fish and Wildlife can produce that from research done previously to demonstrate the changes in herring behavior in recent years. Water temperatures are impacting an early algal bloom which is impacting herring spawning behavior. Dive fisheries are being impacted by water temps increasing the length of toxic algal blooms, resulting in high PST level readings. This impacts the commercial Geoduck fishery and then subsistence harvest for all other shellfish. Low water in lakes is reducing available water for hydro generation, resulting in the tribe relying on diesel generation for the foreseeable future. Reduced snowpack, results in low spring recharge in hydrological systems, the result is lower lake and stream levels at the beginning of the season, which become more critically low as the drier summer progresses. This low water and warmer temperatures may be contributing to low salmon fry survival as well. Forest Health Low water levels and low rainfall, have increased the stressors on evergreen species, allowing pests such as spruce aphids to cause widespread ill health, and gradual die-off region wide. Berry bushes had high amounts berries due to the sunshine, but many late season berries were very dry and shriveled, reflecting how dry conditions were. Salmon berries were ready for harvesting in late May which was earlier than normal and we were harvesting still in August. Evergreen trees are losing their foliage. Many of the evergreen ferns that typically grow on the roadsides have been heavily impacted by low water conditions, turning brown and dying early. Temperate late fall weather has allowed an entire extra flowering cycle of some invasive species, such as, Orange Hawkweed, Tansy Ragwort, Fall Dandelion and sow thistle. Wildlife impacts Hummingbirds have been known to stay year round instead of migrating south. Robins and Flickers have been returning earlier, as early as February instead of late March or early April. The increasing humpback whale population is a factor of climate change. Before 15 years ago there were no known overwintering humpback whales in Southeast Alaska. In the present time we can document humpbacks in AIR waters year round. This may be the Northern most Southern overwintering ground. Back in the day humpbacks would return to Hawaii or Mexico for winter. Now the warmer oceans are more productive further north so the whales do not need to follow food all the way to Hawaii. The increased abundance of deer on Walden Pt Rd in early spring is contributed to climate change. The warming temps earlier in the year is causing alder to bud out earlier. The road systems are great places for alder to reach to the sun. This is an easy food source for spring deer to forage on. Submitted Oct. 10, 2018