Global warming has a reverse effect on Alaska’s state capital

You’re likely used to hearing about the possibility of cities flooding as sea levels rise, a result of climate change. But in Alaska, that quirky, individualistic state, the reverse is happening – at least in one area.

In an article today from the New York Times, Cornelia Dean reports that Juneau, the only US capital not accessible by road, is actually gaining land as a result of glacial melt. Though it seems counterintuitive, the logistics work a bit like this: glaciers weigh a lot, and as they recede, their pressure eases. The land sort of bounces back, or rises – faster than the rising seas can keep up with it.

Furthermore, glacier runoff deposits sediments into the water, and the Gastineau Channel in front of downtown Juneau is so silty that at low tide it’s more of a mudflat than a channel. Where boats regularly sailed, runners now cross in the annual Mendenhall Mud Run. It’s a fun spin on the rising land, no doubt, but it belies the seriousness of the changes.

Read more about Juneau’s rising land problems here.