A mild winter that left a thick blanket of snow on the ground, followed by a wet spring, created ideal conditions for thick clouds of mosquitoes and other insects that are plaguing Alaska residents.
ANCHORAGE A mild winter that left a thick blanket of snow on the ground, followed by a wet spring, created ideal conditions for thick clouds of mosquitoes and other insects that are plaguing Alaska residents.
Global warming, which is thawing permafrost and causing huge wildfires in Alaska, is being blamed for the mosquito and insect nuisance by environmental groups, including the National Resources Defense Council.
"I think they're awful," said Ila Christianson, who works at a tourist information center in Anchorage. She went to an area lake, "and you couldn't even see in front of you, they were so thick."
Residents in the recent past became accustomed to more mosquito-free summers because there was little snow to insulate over-wintering insects, said Fred Sorensen, pest management coordinator at the University of Alaska.
"Winter survival was really good because there was snow cover," Sorensen said, but it wasn't immediately clear that global warming was to blame for the infestation.
"All of these little things add up to something, but to most of us scientists, that's not a reason to jump to a conclusion," he said.
An unprecedented multi-year infestation of bark-eating insects has killed swaths of trees in south-central and interior Alaska forests, creating wildfire risks.
Global warming is behind a myriad of problems in Alaska, with soggy permafrost causing buildings and stretches of pavement in some regions to slump. Sea ice has retreated, erasing a barrier that once shielded Arctic coastal villages from high waves. Beavers are appearing much farther north than in the past, damming waterways that once flowed freely.
Sorensen also reminded complainers that the mosquitoes benefit creatures higher on the food chain.
"All those salmon fishermen out there and the trout fishermen need to recognize that this is a good thing," he said.