Helping Alaskan Coastal Communities Adjust to Global Warming


Multi-institutional team of researchers awarded $3 million NSF grant as part of Arctic climate studies program.

Alaskan coastal Indigenous communities are facing severe environmental changes that threaten to irrevocably damage their way of life. A $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will allow Penn State researchers to assist local communities with foreseeable environmental challenges and work towards building more resilient communities.

The project, “Pursuing Opportunities for Long-term Arctic Resilience for Infrastructure and Society,” or POLARIS, is funded through NSF’s new "Navigating the New Arctic" program, which will establish a network of platforms and tools across the Arctic to document and understand the Arctic's rapid biological, physical, chemical and social changes.

According to principal investigator Guangqing Chi, associate professor of rural sociology and demography and public health sciences in the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education, it is estimated that Arctic Alaskan temperatures are rising two to three times faster than in the mainland United States.

“Together with permafrost thawing, sea levels rising, and declining sea ice cover, extreme storms are rapidly eroding some Alaskan coasts and damaging community infrastructure, livelihoods and cultural heritage,” he said. “The rising temperatures are also causing sea ice to melt, disrupting marine food chains that many rural Alaskan communities rely on.”

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