967490130

967490130

Etats Unis , Alaska , Refuge faunique national arctique , Kaktovik , ours polaire ( Ursus maritimus ), femelle et deux petits de l'année. (Photo by Sylvain CORDIER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Photo by: Sylvain CORDIER

Sylvain CORDIER

What’s Baking in Alaska?

By: Aditi Rajagopal

A trending new addition to travel bucket lists around the world is frigid-yet-beautiful Alaska. The poles, the dancing lights, and the winter wonderlands have always attracted the extreme traveler - but this time, there is more than the magical draw of the north that is inviting people up towards the corners of the globe: climate change.

There’s a strange form of climate anxiety is driving more people to places and sights that may cease to exist in the coming years or decades. Alaska tops the list of climate-induced travel destinations. The northern and otherwise-serene Alaskan village of Kaktovik saw a major boom in tourism last year, as over 2,000 people descended on its sparsely populated gravel and snowy streets. Until earlier in the decade, local news reports say, the village had fewer than 50 annual visitors. The main attractions now are polar bears, which are being forced into towns by a warming planet and the diminishing Arctic sea ice. All the heating is making it far easier for wildlife spotting and effortless bear selfies. Most visitors are reportedly from China, Europe, or the USA, often arriving on fuel-guzzling chartered planes.

629542553

629542553

Visitors on an all terrain vehicle watching polar bear sow and cubs on Barter Island Kaktovik Alaska. (Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Photo by: Education Images

Education Images

Around the mid 1990s, researchers began noticing more female bears denning on land instead of in the ice. And seasons of tourism correspond with changing bear behavior. It peaks in autumn (which is also far warmer and breezier than the imminent winter - and climate change is making things more pleasant in general) when sea ice is far from the shore, and bears can become stranded on the land until the sea freezes again in winter.

629464251

629464251

Female polar bear and young cub looking toward the Healy. Alaska, Beaufort Sea, North of Point Barrow. Photographed by Kelley Elliott. Dated 2005. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Photo by: Universal History Archive

Universal History Archive

A report in the Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment found, “Alaska has warmed more than twice as rapidly as the rest of the United States.” This year, alarming temperatures were reported from Alaska. Every day since April 25 saw above average temperatures, the longest streak in a century.

967490140

967490140

Refuge faunique national arctique, Kaktovik, ours polaire (Ursus maritimus), femelle et deux petits de l'année. (Photo by Sylvain CORDIER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Photo by: Sylvain CORDIER

Sylvain CORDIER

While bears have their charm, melting glaciers are a spectacle in their own right. With predictions like the recent one that glaciers could be melting at 100 times faster than previously thought, the number of tourists on ice seems to be going up correspondingly. Alaska’s tour companies have reported an unprecedented increase - and the number of glacial cruises reportedly went up 33 percent in the last decade. Some glaciers have been marked by the rate of melt for tourists to watch and imagine the future from where they stand, much like visitors to the Berlin wall picture the past. As the landscape changes, tour companies have had to modify their regular routes and hikes too - some glaciers that had access by foot only a decade ago can now only be reached by helicopter.

Next Up

Nature from Above: The Art of Aerial Photography

I’ll never forget the first time I went up in a small plane. Technical considerations aside, I had a million thoughts going through my mind.

Capturing Alaska: Winter into Spring

The best stories are those that exist around authentic moments. In this case, showing the earliest signs of spring as cracks and textures emerge on a lake in Alaska.

America’s Mammoth Effort to Save the Monarch Butterfly

The monarch butterfly is one of the most recognizable species in the country. Its bright orange wings framed with black speckled trim and shadowed veined stripes has earned the species the name of “common tiger” in some regions.

The T-Rex Has a New Branch on its Family Tree

A farmer happened upon one of the greatest fossil finds in Canada, which was recently announced by paleontologists to be, quite possibly, one of the oldest dino-finds in the country!

This Giant Mushroom Is the Largest Organism Ever

These fungi are larger than blue whales and dinosaurs!

How Endangered Monkeys Swing Over Traffic Jams in India

Monkeys get to where the trees are greener on the other side

Big Sur Condors, A Conservation Comeback Story

Condors once ranged from Baja California all the way to British Columbia. But, in 1987, the last wild California condor was taken into captivity in order to preserve the species. Now, thanks to a breeding program in central California, the condors are finally returning to their natural habitat in Big Sur.

Hot Water "Blob" Causes Harm to Wildlife in the Pacific

Rising water temperatures all over the world are causing a multitude of problems for the planet. Recently, a spike in the ocean temperatures is suspected to have led to the death of one million seabirds.

First Marine Biologist to Win Prestigious Conservation Award

A woman has become the first marine biologist to win a $250,000 environmental prize for her work on preserving seahorses.

What You Need to Know About the Amazon Rainforest Fires and How You Can Help

The Amazon rainforest is burning at a record rate. Here is what you need to know.