Alaska heat wave shatters city’s record, disrupts jobs and lives

People visit a rock outpost at Beluga Point along the Turnagain Arm on July 4, 2019 south of Anchorage, Alaska. Alaska is bracing for record warm temperatures and dry conditions in parts of the state. (Lance King/Getty Images/AFP)
Updated 06 July 2019

Alaska heat wave shatters city’s record, disrupts jobs and lives

  • Scientists say Alaska is warming at twice the rate of the global average
  • Thawing permafrost is affecting everything from building foundations to wildlife habitats

LOS ANGELES: Temperatures in Alaska’s largest city Anchorage have soared to a sweltering all-time record of 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 Celsius) as a heat wave grips the US state which straddles the Arctic Circle.
Fourth of July fireworks were canceled due to risk of wildfires caused by “extreme dry weather conditions,” as temperatures matching those in Miami highlighted rapid warming in a region considered particularly vulnerable to climate change.
“At 5 p.m. this afternoon, Anchorage International Airport officially hit 90 degrees for the first time on record,” tweeted the National Weather Service (NWS) late Thursday.
The previous record was 85 degrees, set in June 1969.
The average high temperature for July 4 in Anchorage, located in southern Alaska, is a far cooler 65 degrees.
The abnormally warm weather is being caused by a “giant ridge of high pressure sitting right over us,” NWS meteorologist Bill Ludwig told the Anchorage Daily News.
Alaska had earlier broken temperature records throughout a hot spring, particularly in the Arctic zone which is especially sensitive to fluctuations in climate.
All 30 days in June had above-average temperatures, the NWS said.
According to scientists, Alaska is warming at twice the rate of the global average.
“From 1901 to 2016, average temperatures in the mainland United States increased by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit... whereas in Alaska they increased by 4.7 degrees,” Rick Thoman, a climate specialist at the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, told AFP in April.

Arctic ocean warming
The dramatic warming Alaska has experienced in recent years — linked partly to a decline in sea ice and Arctic ocean warming — has wreaked havoc on local communities, wildlife and the state’s economy.
Permafrost — the frozen ground that covers almost 85 percent of Alaska — is thawing, affecting everything from building foundations to wildlife habitats and the picking of berries that grow on the tundra.
Frozen rivers usually serve as transport routes in winter, as two-thirds of communities in the state are not accessible by road.
But higher temperatures have made the ice dangerously thin and unsafe for truck or car travel.
Many recreational sled-dog races have had to be canceled this year, and the famed Iditarod race had to be re-routed as what is normally solid sea ice was open water on part of the race course.
Crab fishing has also been affected as the sea ice that fishermen use as a platform is non-existent or too thin in some areas.
Alaska’s seal population is likely to be affected this summer, as some species give birth on solid ice, Thoman said.
Global warming has led to the lowest ice levels in the Bering Sea — which connects with the Arctic Ocean — since 1850, when sea ice records were first kept, he added.
While it is unprecedented for the mercury to hit 90 degrees in coastal Anchorage, temperatures as high as 100 degrees have been recorded in Alaska’s interior.
The high-pressure system causing the current spike in temperatures is expected to shift north to inland areas in the coming days, with further records likely to be broken, according to AccuWeather.


Sweden discontinues Assange rape investigation

Updated 45 min 7 sec ago

Sweden discontinues Assange rape investigation

  • The case was being dropped because “the evidence has weakened considerably due to the long period of time that has elapsed since the events in question.”

STOCKHOLM: Sweden on Tuesday dropped its investigation into an alleged rape by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is currently in prison in Britain.
Assange, who is battling extradition to the United States which accuses him of publishing secret documents related to his WikiLeaks work, has been facing potential charges in Sweden since 2010. The 48-year-old has denied all allegations against him.
Prosecutor Eve-Marie Persson said the case was being dropped because “the evidence has weakened considerably due to the long period of time that has elapsed since the events in question.”
She said the alleged victim, who accused Assange of raping her in 2010, “submitted a credible and reliable version of events.”
“Her statements have been coherent, extensive and detailed,” Persson said. 
The decision follows a ruling in June by a Swedish court that Assange should not be detained. Two months earlier, Assange was evicted from the Ecuador Embassy in London where he had been holed up since 2012. He was immediately arrested and is currently serving a 50-week sentence in Britain for jumping bail in 2012.
Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, said in a tweet that the focus should now move onto the “threat” that Assange has been “warning about for years: the belligerent prosecution of the United States and the threat it poses to the First Amendment.”
Assange has been battling potential charges in Sweden since August 2010, when an investigation began after two women accused Assange of sexual offenses during a visit to Stockholm. Sweden asked Britain to extradite Assange for questioning, and in June 2012 he sought refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid arrest. That was granted two months later.
After that, the investigation stalled. Swedish prosecutors dropped cases of alleged sexual misconduct when the statute of limitations ran out in 2015, leaving only the rape allegation.
While denying the sexual misconduct allegations in Sweden, he sought asylum for protection from possible extradition to the US on charges.
Ecuador withdrew Assange’s asylum status in April 2019. Assange was arrested by British police and sentenced in May to 50 weeks in prison for jumping bail in 2012. He remains in prison after authorities ruled he was a flight risk and faces an extradition hearing next year to the US to face spying charges