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The Wettest Part of Alaska Is Experiencing Extreme Drought. Is Climate Change to Blame?

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Precipitation rates vary widely among Alaska’s different climate zones.

The wettest part of Alaska is currently experiencing something unusual: extreme drought. Last week, the region, which has been experiencing drought conditions for almost two years, was upgraded by the United States Drought Monitor to a D3—meaning extreme drought, the second-highest level of drought severity measured by the United States Drought Monitor. The affected areas include the southernmost region of Southeast Alaska, including Ketchikan, Prince of Wales Island, Wrangell, and Metlakatla.

According to the CBC, this is the first time these conditions have been recorded in this part of Alaska by the U.S. Drought Monitor, a mapping system that was created in 1999 to document droughts across the country. 

The D3 categorization highlights the importance of the way we assess drought, says Rick Thoman, an Alaska climate specialist at the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy. “It’s not just about precipitation shortfalls, it’s that intersection between precipitation and the impacts that it causes to human endeavors and the non-human environment.”

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