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Shishmaref is a small village of about 600 people located on Sarichef Island in the Chukchi Sea, just north of the Bering Strait and five miles from the Alaska mainland. The 3-mile long barrier island on which the village sits is slowly eroding away. Whenever a big storm hits, a giant chunk of land falls off to sea, sometimes taking off with it a house or two.

The island has dealt with erosion issues since at least the 1950s, but recent climate change is exacerbating the problem considerably. Average temperatures are increasing faster in Alaska than they are in the rest of the United States, warming 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit in the last 50 years. Rising temperatures have reduced sea ice which have protected Shishmaref from storm surges in the past. At the same time, the higher temperatures are causing the permafrost that the village is built on to melt making the shore even more vulnerable to erosion.

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© Amusing Planet, 2015.


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