TOOLIK LAKE, ALASKA - Scientist Anne Hershey paddled a small inflatable raft across an arctic lake, pausing in her stroke to consider how the melting permafrost caused a landslide of mud and sediment spilling down the bank into the water.
Since the bank collapsed two years ago, the water has grown cloudy with sediment, providing scientists a natural laboratory for studying how warmer temperatures may play out in ecosystems far and near.
Global air and water temperatures are inching up, causing seas to warm and expand, and polar ice to melt. Alaska is warming more quickly than lower latitudes of the United States, so scientists can observe changes from global warming here first. The average annual temperature in arctic Alaska has increased about 4 degrees Fahrenheit in 50 years, according to the Alaska Climate Research Center.
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