The Spring Thaw
By Katie Orlinsky
This series of diptychs were taken in May 2015 and June 2015 during this past year’s abnormally fast spring thaw and are part of a larger work in progress about the impacts of climate change across Alaska.
Scientists call Alaska “ground zero” for climate change, and 2014-2015 was the state’s warmest winter on record. But climate change in Alaska and the North American Arctic means more then just warmer weather; it means snow that arrives later in the fall, a spring thaw that happens sooner, vanishing sea ice, retreating glaciers, an explosion of wildfires and intense storms, and diminishing natural habitats for hundreds of local species, and for the people whose subsistence depend on them. Climate change is not only putting immense pressure on natural habitats and animal species in Alaska and the North American arctic, but challenging communities across the region, transforming the relationship between people, animals and the land.
During springtime the Alaskan arctic the land comes to life. Once the sea ice starts to melt and move out from shore it’s time for the subsistence harvest of marine mammals (seal, walrus, bowhead, or beluga whale). This thousand year old Inupiat tradition still feeds entire communities through the upcoming winter. Yet for indigenous people, especially those living in isolated, rural areas, climate change threatens to bring the end to their way of life.