Workshop summary released on drought and extreme events in Southeast Alaska

Cover of the Drought and Extreme Events Building Collaborations to Enhance Data, Decision making,, and Adaptation Planning in Southeast Alaska Workshop Summary
Dr. Davin Holen, Alaska Sea Grant, Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks. Photo on cover shows people walking in forest where storm came through and damaged large spruce trees. Tree root balls and broken trees line the path.

Alaska Sea Grant recently published the workshop summary Drought and Extreme Events: Building Collaborations To Enhance Data, Decision Making, and Adaptation Planning in Southeast Alaska. The summary details activities and discussions from the workshop and includes a variety of resources for community and regional planning for extreme weather events.

In March 2022, the Drought and Extreme Events workshop took place in Juneau, Alaska, to share research, data decision support tools, and local monitoring efforts conducted by residents throughout Southeast Alaska. The workshop was funded by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) through a grant to the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy (ACCAP), and organized by Alaska Sea Grant and partners, including the USDA Northwest Climate Hub and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, federal and state agencies, nonprofits, community organizations, Tribal representatives, and academic researchers from Alaska EPSCoR. The planning committee included representatives involved in the Sustainable Southeast Partnership. Alaska Sea Grant worked with partners including ACCAP to coordinate the workshop steering committee and produce the final workshop summary.  

stumps and roots on the shoreline
Photo courtesy of Jeremy Bynum.

The workshop drew 82 participants in person and online, representing communities from across Southeast Alaska. Workshop participants included state and federal agency personnel, academic researchers, Tribal representatives, and community members from the Southeast region. Previous years’ workshops focused solely on adaptation for drought conditions. By broadening the focus to include other extreme weather events, the goal of the latest workshop was to assess the potential impacts of drought and extreme weather events on natural and built environments by sharing the best available science for the region. The workshop structure included four main topics for discussion: weather and climate, the forest environment, socioeconomics, and streams and salmon. 

Davin Holen of the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program, who led the organization of the workshop with partners, provided opening remarks with a land acknowledgment to recognize meeting on the traditional lands of A`akw Kwáan and T`aaku Kwáan, and referenced the significance of the workshop location, Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall, named after the noted Tlingit leader who worked for equality for Alaska Natives.

Holen highlighted the importance of community resilience through partnerships and fostering adaptation strategies. “By bringing together stakeholders in Southeast Alaska, our hope is to harness the diversity of thought, knowledge, and experience that will have local applicability and support. This was not so much an academic workshop as it was an applied workshop for stakeholders across Southeast to focus not only on the science, but also on the societal impacts of extreme events,” stated Holen. 

A foundational question for workshop organizers and attendees was “How do we connect users with relevant information and make it easy to use?” Many of the discussions focused on collaboration and how to make climate adaptation information easily accessible to Southeast Alaskan organizations, communities and residents. The workshop was an opportunity to showcase newly released data and decision support tools and provide community resources for cases of drought and extreme weather events. The Southeast Alaska Salmon Simulator, Sitka Landslide Risk Dashboard, Climate Adaptation Plan Template for Tribes in Southeast Alaska, and Atmospheric River Impacts Southeast Alaska Story Map were new data decision support tools introduced to workshop participants. These tools serve as planning resources for communities facing rapid rates of climate change in Southeast Alaska. 

“In the future, it will be important to find ways to get around funding challenges and other logistical hurdles in order to establish more comprehensive monitoring across Southeast Alaska. More comprehensive, community-driven monitoring will provide the best opportunity to understand and plan for localized impacts,” said Holen. For more information or questions on the broader project Building Community Resilience in a Changing Climate, contact Davin Holen.