Climate Change and Your Health

Climate Change Health Threats in Alaska

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Ozone Smog and Allergenic Ragweed Occurrence   >= 1 unhealthy ozone days/yr (2002-2006)   Both ragweed and ozone present and >= 1 unhealthy ozone days/yr (2002-2006)   Ragweed present only   Neither or missing data
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Average Number, Summer Days Per Year of Extreme Heat, 2000-2009   <= 9.0   9.1 - 13.8 (More than expected)   > 13.8 (More than expected)   Insufficient data in county
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Dengue Fever Vulnerability, 1995-2005 data   Areas vulnerable to dengue fever infection   Counties reporting positive for one or both dengue mosquito vector species, as of 2005   No mosquito vectors reported as of 2005
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2000-2009 Averages, Number of Days Per Year of Extreme Low Flow by Watershed   < 15   15 - 33   > 33   Insufficient flow data
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2000-2009 Averages, Number of Days Per Year of Extreme High Flow by Watershed   < 15   15 - 23   > 23   Insufficient flow data
Floodwatch Stations Number of Days Above Flood Stage Per Year < 1 1 - 10 > 10
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Extreme Weather Events
Record Rainfall
Record temperature
Extreme drought
Record Snowfall
Wildfire
Extreme flooding
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Air Pollution

Many people are facing a double whammy of air quality threats that will worsen with climate change:

  • Asthma sickens an estimated 16,900 kids and 47,700 adults.3
  • Urban areas like Juneau and Anchorage experience air quality problems from smoke, dust, and soot pollution.
  • Wildfires in the state's interior are burning longer and more intensely from climate change,4 which may impact air quality.

Protect your family from air pollution:

  • Check news reports on the radio, TV, or online for pollen reports or daily air quality conditions. Or visit EPA's Air Now for air quality info and avoid outdoor activity on bad air days, particularly for people with asthma or other respiratory diseases.
  • After spending time outdoors, wash off pollen that may have collected on your face, skin, or hair.

Find out more about the effects of air pollution

See more about Alaska's state action plan for air pollution

Extreme Heat

  • Average temperatures are expected to rise 5-13°F (3-7°C) by late this century.5
  • In parts of the state, average summer temperatures could spike 10°F (6°C) in 50 years.6
  • Increased soil temperatures are causing traditional food storage cellars to thaw, increasing the risk of food-borne illness.7

Protect your family from extreme heat:

  • Limit exertion during heat waves and high temperature days, drink plenty of water and take cool showers or baths, and stay inside or in the shade.
  • Check on elderly or at-risk friends or neighbors regularly -- or ask someone to look in on you if you feel vulnerable to heat.

Find out more about the effects of extreme heat

See more about Alaska's state action plan for extreme heat

Infectious Diseases

  • 11 cases of Dengue Fever were reported between 1995-2005.8
  • 39 cases of Lyme disease were reported to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between 1990-2008.9

Protect your family from infectious diseases:

  • When planning international travel, check with the CDC's website for information on recent disease outbreaks and take appropriate precautions.
  • During mosquito season at home, apply insect repellent with 20-30 percent DEET in the mornings and early evenings.

Find out more about the effects of infectious diseases

See more about Alaska's state action plan for infectious disease

Drought

  • Lakes in southern Alaska have declined from permafrost thawing and evaporation.10
  • Rising temperatures are causing harmful algal blooms to grow in tundra ponds, diminishing drinking water supplies.11
  • The state is expected to become 10-30 percent drier by end of century.12

Protect your family from droughts:

  • Visit EPA's WaterSense for tips on conserving water, such as replacing leaky pipes.
  • Agricultural water users can find conservation options with a local Cooperative Extension Service agent, or the US Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Find out more about the effects of drought

See more about Alaska's state action plan for drought

Flooding

  • Coastal communities like Point Hope are at risk for major flooding, as melting permafrost and coastal erosion threatens homes and infrastructure.13
  • Combined sewer overflows are a health risk for Juneau.14
  • Major disasters have been declared in the state nearly 20 times since 2000 due to flooding and severe storms.15

Protect your family from floods and related illnesses:

  • Familiarize yourself with your region's vulnerability to flooding and its local emergency evacuation plans.
  • Prepare your own plan -- including where your family will stay in case of flooding and what you'll do if a relative is sickened by contaminated water.

Find out more about the effects of flooding

See more about Alaska's state action plan for flooding

Extreme Weather

Alaska experienced in 2011:

  • Record-breaking heat in 7 counties and a total of 15 broken heat records
  • Record-breaking rainfall in 9 counties and a total of 23 broken rainfall records
  • Record-breaking snow in 7 counties and a total of 12 broken snowfall records

Protect your family from extreme weather:

Find out more about the effects of extreme weather

See more about Alaska's state action plan for extreme weather

Alaska's Climate Adaptation Strategy

Air Pollution:

In Alaska's climate preparedness strategy, air quality is identified as a health-related impact of climate change, but no preparedness measures are proposed.

Extreme Heat:

In Alaska's climate preparedness strategy, extreme heat is identified as a health-related impact of climate change, but no preparedness measures are proposed.

Infectious Disease:

Alaska has developed a climate preparedness plan that addresses the spread of infectious disease by focusing on increased disease surveillance and monitoring.

Alaska's climate preparedness strategy includes the following measures to prevent increased health threats from infectious diseases as a result of climate change:

  • Improve surveillance for vectors and vector borne diseases in vectors.
  • Expand and improve Department of Health and Social Services' (DHSS) hospital discharge and emergency room databases to improve detection of climate change-related diseases.
  • Improve health care provider education around infectious disease reporting.
  • Create a reporting system for sanitation/wastewater integrity disruptions within Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
  • Improve interagency notification of drinking water and wastewater violations.
  • Increase monitoring in humans and animals for contaminants that are potentially related to climate change that adversely impact human and animal health.
  • Update stakeholders through epidemiology bulletins, Alaska forum on the Environment talks, Office of the State Veterinarian newsletter and other means.

Drought:

In Alaska's climate preparedness strategy, drought is identified as a health-related impact of climate change, but no preparedness measures are proposed.

Flooding:

In Alaska's climate preparedness strategy, flooding is identified as a health-related impact of climate change, but no preparedness measures are proposed.

Extreme Weather:

Alaska's climate preparedness strategy identifies extreme weather events as a climate change-related health threat but does not include specific measures to address this threat.

Find out more

  1. Fitzpatrick J., Alley R., Brigham-Gretto J., Miller G., Polyak L., Serreze M., 2008. Past Climate Variability and Change in the Arctic and at High Latitude. Synthesis and Assessment Product 1.2. USGS.
  2. U.S. Global Change Research Program. Global Climate Change Impacts in the U.S.Region: Alaska, 2009.
  3. American Lung Association. Estimated Prevalence and Incidence of Lung Disease, 2010.
  4. Turetsky M, et al. Recent acceleration of biomass burning and carbon losses in Alaskan forests and peatlands. Nature Geoscience, 2011.
  5. U.S. Global Change Research Program. Global Climate Change Impacts in the U.S.Region: Alaska, 2009.
  6. Brubaker M., Bell J., Warren J., Rolin A., Climate Change in Point Hope, Alaska. Strategies for Community Health. ANTHC Center for Climate and Health, 2010.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Natural Resources Defense Council. Fever Pitch, 2009.
  9. Lyme Disease Association. Total Lyme Cases Reported by CDC 1990-2008. Data compiled from CDC pub data (MMWR), 2009.
  10. U.S. Global Change Research Program. Global Climate Change Impacts in the U.S. Region: Alaska, 2009.
  11. Brubaker M., Bell J., Warren J., Rolin A., Climate Change in Point Hope, Alaska. Strategies for Community Health. ANTHC Center for Climate and Health, 2010.
  12. O'Brien & Loya, Climate Change Impacts on Water Availability in Alaska. University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2009.
  13. Brubaker M., Bell J., Warren J., Rolin A., Climate Change in Point Hope, Alaska. Strategies for Community Health. ANTHC Center for Climate and Health, 2010.
  14. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Report to Congress: Impacts and Control of CSOs and SSOs. Appendix D: List of Active CSO Permits, 2004.
  15. Federal Emergency Management Agency. DHS. Declared Disasters by Year or State, 2011.

Alaska's Changing Climate

  • Alaska has warmed faster than elsewhere in the United States over the last fifty years: 3.4°F (2°C) on average, and 6.3°F (4°C) in winters.1
  • In the future, increased temperature and precipitation will lead to drier conditions overall, increasing risks of health threats like waterborne illnesses, wildfires, food insecurity, and floods.2
  • Alaska has a strategy to prepare for the health impacts of climate change. The city of Homer also has a climate action plan, but it does not include a preparedness plan that addresses health threats.

Climate Change Health Threats in Alaska

last revised 5/26/2011

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