The Alaskan governor issued a state of emergency on Tuesday because of flooding in and around the state capitol. According to reports, the flooding was caused by runoff from the Mendenhall Glacier into the river of the same name.
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Over the weekend, state officials warned residents of Juneau to avoid the area as flowing water destroyed buildings and infrastructure. Video also emerged of the water causing a house to collapse.
Although the government has taken action with the disaster declaration, which gives those affected by the flooding greater access to resources to respond to and recover from the flood, scientists have been sounding the alarm.
Alaska’s capital city has seen a tourism boom this past year. With Alaskan Cruises becoming more popular, scientists warn that the increased tourism will lead to the Mendenhall Glacier melting at a faster rate. Because of this, city officials are limiting the amount cruises that can arrive at the port, starting in 2024.
Though there is a greater awareness among cruise lines of their large carbon footprint, and many are taking steps to become more environmentally conscious, it still might not be enough. Scientists say the Mendenhall Glacier may no longer be viewable from the visitor center by 2050. Officials in Juneau are concerned about the rate at which the glacier is melting.
Juneau tourism officials are beginning to question what the future holds, and if tourism to the area is sustainable. According to the National Parks Service, sea ice loss has caused polar regions to warm twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Since 1949, Alaska has experienced an increase in temperature by five degrees Fahrenheit (three degrees Celsius).
In a study published in January of 2023, scientists predict that as many as two-thirds of Earth’s glaciers could be completely melted by 2100. Many cities in Alaska- including Juneau- rely on their frozen swaths of Earth to bring in visitors and all of the glaciers have decreased in size dramatically over the past decade.