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Alaska considers new limits for cruise ship visitors to help combat overtourism

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Alaska considers new limits for cruise ship visitors to help combat overtourism


JUNEAU, Alaska — The pristine natural beauty of Alaska boasts breathtaking landscapes with vast national parks, glaciers and 6,640 miles of coastline that makes the destination particularly popular for cruises.

Now, the capital port city of Juneau, where crowds have been sailing in in record numbers, is considering a limit on large cruise ships with 250 passengers or more that would cap the number of daily visitors starting in 2026 to help combat overtourism.

New agreement in Alaska to limit cruise ship visitors

Last month, cruise lines including Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian signed an agreement with Juneau tourism officials to help manage the thousands of passengers getting off the boats at the same time and visiting the area.

While the numbers are subject to change, Sundays through Fridays, cruise crowds are expected to be capped at 16,000. That number will be limited to 12,000 on Saturdays.

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The new agreement expands on last year’s decision to implement a limit of five cruise ships per day in Juneau.

Juneau is home to some amazing outdoor attractions, such as whale watching and Mendenhall Glacier, but some local residents said they’ve had enough of the post-pandemic crowds.

“I personally came to the realization that Alaska was being sold as a friendly place and that my friendliness was a commodity for the cruise lines,” resident Karla Hart told ABC News. “The idea is just one day every week to just take a pause — to have our community back.”

In 2023, a record 1.6 million cruise passengers visited Juneau, including Sarah Grathwohlwent, who was there for the first time earlier this spring and documented her journey on social media.

“It was beautiful to go and see a glacier — was my first one,” she said. “I’m not against limiting the amount of cruise ships, I think it would make it nicer for the locals who live there year round.”

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Overtourism around the world prompts new crowd management systems

Scott Keyes, travel expert and founder of Going.com, said that the challenges of overtourism are not isolated to Juneau.

“We have been setting new travel records every month so far in 2024, and there’s no reason to think that’s going to stop,” he told ABC News.

In the U.S., Mount Rainier is among the National Parks that have begun implementing timed entry reservations to help manage large crowds. In Europe, hotspot destinations like Venice and Barcelona have implemented day trip fees for visitors.

Over the weekend in Barcelona, thousands of locals protested in the streets with water guns to take a stand against tourism, which they say has resulted in a higher cost of living for residents.

Due to increased demand in Athens, Greece, the city is also studying limits on tourist capacity.

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Experts believe that as more destinations see surges in visitors, local officials may implement restrictions to deal with crowds diplomatically.

“I’m all in favor of steps taken to try to make sure you’re managing that properly and respecting the local environment and everything,” Keyes said.

Copyright © 2024 ABC News Internet Ventures.



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Alaska

New study raises concerns as major icefield in Alaska melts at alarming rate

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New study raises concerns as major icefield in Alaska melts at alarming rate


JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU/Gray News) – A new study highlighted the shrinking Juneau Icefield in southeast Alaska as an example of how Earth’s glaciers are nearing an “irreversible” tipping point for melting.

“If there are processes in Alaska that are accelerating the melt, they may be relevant to other parts of the world as well,” said Bethan Davies, the paper’s lead author, about the global significance of studying Alaska’s glaciers.

The Juneau Icefield is home to dozens of large glaciers — including the popular Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau — and many more smaller ones. By 2100, many of these glaciers are at risk of disappearing. Experts say if the Earth continues to warm, nearly 70% of the world’s roughly 200,000 glaciers will dry up by the end of the century.

The approximately 1,500-square-mile Juneau Icefield blankets the mountains north of Juneau.(U.S. Geological Service)

“When we look at the last 10 years worth of glacier change over all of Alaska, we are seeing a real uptick [in melting] that’s faster than in some other parts of the world,” said Davies, who is also the glaciologist and senior lecturer in Physical Geography at Newcastle University. “And it’s very interesting to ask why that’s happening and why these glaciers are not only accelerating but also how they might behave in the future.”

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The study, published this month in the journal Nature Communications, showed from the years 1770 to 1979, ice volume loss remained fairly consistent, at roughly 1 kilometer cubed per year.

From 1979 to 2010, there was slightly more melting, but the loss at 3.1 kilometers cubed per year remained fairly consistent.

However, from 2010 through 2020, the Juneau Icefield’s melting rate doubled to almost 6 kilometers cubed per year. That’s the equivalent of 2.4 million Olympic-size swimming pools melting off of the icefield each year.

The Mendenhall Glacier is one of the dozens of major glaciers that extend out from the Juneau...
The Mendenhall Glacier is one of the dozens of major glaciers that extend out from the Juneau Icefield.(Alaska’s News Source)

That icefield thinning led to the formation of Suicide Basin, which saw its first glacial lake outburst in 2011.

“This can only happen because that whole glacier system, as was pointed out in the study, is thinning,” Alaska climate specialist Rick Thoman said. “It’s thinning a lot and it’s thinning rapidly.”

This water release will happen every year, with some years seeing the potential for historic flooding. But as the glacier keeps thinning, Suicide Basin will reach a point where a glacial lake outburst will no longer form.

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However, Thoman says newer basins can form.

“It’s entirely possible given the complex nature of the Juneau Icefield, we might see a new glacier dammed lake form in some other part of the system,” Thoman said. “But as last year showed, when there’s a lot of water in these glacier-dammed lakes, and when they release all the water, we get the devastation that we saw last August.”

All of that melting eventually gets dumped into the ocean. According to Davies, glacier melt accounts for about a quarter of the total sea level rise. The remainder comes from the Antarctic ice, Greenland ice sheet and thermal expansion of the ocean.

“A part of the world that’s contributing the most to sea level rise is Alaska,” Davies said. “The Alaskan glaciers are really important in the global context because there’s a large volume of ice.”

She said this study isn’t relevant to just Alaska, because the same processes occurring here in Alaska may be relevant to other parts of the world.

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“What’s happening is that the temperature is gradually increasing,” Davies said. “But as that happens, there’s a series of processes that are accelerating melt or amplifying melt.”

One of those processes is the snow line, which continues to dwindle during the summer months.

Davies said the end of summer snow line is actually reaching the top of the low slope, plateau area. This is historically lower than in previous decades when snow was covering the plateau all year round.

Another challenge is that as more of the plateau is exposed, it’s darkening the mountain as more rocks are exposed from the melting ice.

“When we remove the snow, we are reflecting less of the sun’s energy back into space,” Davies said. “Because snow is very bright and white and reflective. So what we’re doing when we raise that end of summer snow line is we expose much more of the glacier to that darker color so it can absorb more of the sun’s energy.”

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Thoman said with the summer snow line dwindling, the atmosphere’s snow level rises with atmospheric rivers aiding in transporting warmer air.

“To hold as much water in the air as those atmospheric rivers bring, the air has to be warm,” Thoman said. “If it was colder it wouldn’t be able to hold as much moisture.”

Thoman said it’s both the high precipitation events and warm airmass that are helping to drive snow levels very high into the atmosphere, which can and do occur all winter long, some years.

Climatologically speaking, Juneau temperatures have warmed a few degrees over the last several decades. And while that may not seem like much, when temperatures are hovering around freezing, that can still have large impacts.

“We’re right around that freezing level,” Thoman said. “So an increase of 31 to 33 [degrees], say, as an average temperature is much more significant when you’re talking about snow and ice than say an increase of 40 to 43.”

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Davies doesn’t think the Earth’s ice has passed the point of irreversible change but does argue that such a threshold could occur by the end of this century.

And if the feedback loop of melting continues, the icefield will eventually reach a point where it will be difficult to recover from.



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18 new winter routes for Alaska Airlines

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18 new winter routes for Alaska Airlines


Alaska Airlines is expanding its winter offering with 18 new nonstop routes across America and Mexico, marking a series of notable firsts.

New routes offered by the airline include its first-ever service to Vail, Colorado from San Diego and Seattle. Alaska Airlines will also reaffirm its position as the largest US carrier between the West Coast and Latin America with a new nonstop service to Liberia, Costa Rica from San Francisco and Seattle; its 104th nonstop route departing from the latter.

Additionally, Alaska will become the first US carrier to connect the Mexican destinations of Fresno and Guadalajara with daily flights on its mainline aircraft, as well as offering the only nonstop service between New York state and Puerto Vallarta.

This builds on an announcement made last week that will see Alaska become the only US airline to offer flights to La Paz, Mexico; as well as becoming the only US carrier to fly between Monterrey, Mexico and Los Angeles.

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“We’re thrilled to offer convenient connection for guests across our network with this expansion,” said Kirsten Amrine, vice president of network planning and revenue management at Alaska Airlines, who described the new routes as “an exciting range of options from tropical destinations cross Mexico to the most popular ski slopes in North America”.

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Alaska News Nightly: Friday, July 12, 2024

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Alaska News Nightly: Friday, July 12, 2024



A forensic artist’s sketch of a third possible victim in the Brian Steven Smith murder case. It’s a composite of images taken from one of Smith’s cell phones. (From APD)

Stories are posted on the statewide news page. Send news tips, questions, and comments to news@alaskapublic.org. Follow Alaska Public Media on Facebook and on Twitter @AKPublicNews. And subscribe to the Alaska News Nightly podcast.

Friday on Alaska News Nightly:

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A judge sentences Brian Smith to 226 years behind bars for murdering two Alaska Native women. Also, an advocacy group in Anchorage calls for a new police review board. And there’s been another sighting in Fairbanks of a mass of gnat larvae that looks like a snake.

Reports tonight from:

Rhonda McBride and Liz Ruskin in Anchorage
Jack Darrell in Ketchikan
Tim Ellis in Delta Junction
Dan Bross in Fairbanks

This episode of Alaska News Nightly is hosted by Casey Grove, with audio engineering from Chris Hyde and producing from Tim Rockey.


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a portrait of a man outside

Casey Grove is host of Alaska News Nightly, a general assignment reporter and an editor at Alaska Public Media. Reach him atcgrove@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Caseyhere

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