Teachers, scroll all the way down for a short list of key resources in our “Teachers’ Toolkit.”
- Read through our activity “Mapping Extreme Natural Events.” Extreme natural events are “short-term changes in the weather or environment that can have long-term effects.” Adapt the activity’s questions to focus only on the state of Alaska. (Here’s our collection on the 49th state, from alpine glaciers to zoological oddities.) What are some extreme natural events that happen in Alaska?
- Why is Alaska so vulnerable to so many natural hazards? Experiment with the layers on our MapMaker Interactive for some clues.
- blizzards and other severe snowstorms: Most of Alaska has a “humid cold climate,” perfect for the formation of snowstorms. (Try turning on the “climate zones” layer in the “Climate” category.)
- avalanches: Alaska has a lot of mountains with a lot of snow! (Try turning on the “surface elevation” layer in the “Earth Systems” category, or the “precipitation and rainfall” layer in the “Climate” category.)
- hurricanes and other severe storms: Alaska, particularly the Aleutian Islands, is part of the general area where extratropical cyclones—like Typhoon Nuri—develop. According to Accuweather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson, “In brief, when a typhoon curves away from Asia it causes the jet stream [steering winds] farther to the east across the Pacific and into North America to buckle and amplify days later . . . This is the case for the remnants of Super Typhoon Nuri as it has already curved away from Asia and tracking northward toward Alaska.”
- earthquakes: The Aleutian trench is a subduction zone that runs from the Aleutian Islands to southern mainland Alaska. Here, the massive Pacific plate is subducting beneath the North American plate, creating the perfect environment for earthquakes. (Try turning on MapMaker Interactive’s “plate tectonics” and “earthquakes” layers in the “Earth Systems” category.)
- volcanoes: The same subduction zone that creates a perfect environment for earthquakes also creates a perfect environment for volcanoes. (Try turning on the “volcanic eruptions” layer in the “Earth Systems” category.)
- floods: Alaska’s severe climate can create different types of floods—from storm surges from storms such as Typhoon Nuri, to meltwater floods from Alaska’s snow and glaciers. Read more about floods here.
- tsunamis: Alaska is vulnerable to tsunamis, or huge ocean waves triggered by sudden displacements in the seafloor—such as submarine volcanoes, earthquakes, or landslides. Read about Alaska’s “Good Friday Earthquake” and tsunami here.
- Read through “Mapping Extreme Natural Events” again. What other U.S. regions are vulnerable to natural hazards found in Alaska?
- blizzards and other severe snowstorms: States in the northeast and midwestern regions, such as Maine, New York, or Nebraska.
- avalanches: States in the mountainous western region, such as Colorado or California.
- earthquakes: States in along the West Coast, such as California and Oregon.
- volcanoes: States experiencing geologic activity, mostly in the western region, such as Hawaii or Washington.
- floods: States with rivers or coasts that experience severe weather—this could happen almost anywhere.
- tsunamis: States with coastlines that are in the path of strong ocean currents vulnerable to submarine geologic activity. Besides Alaska, the western state of Hawaii is most at risk.
Alaska Dispatch News: No damage reported in Bering Sea storm
Nat Geo activity: Mapping Extreme Natural Events
Nat Geo MapMaker Interactive: Alaska