Alaska’s warming trend is accompanied by increasingly unpredictable weather that can make growing crops here even trickier than it already is.
Pete Mayo and his wife, Lynn, grow carrots and other northern stalwarts at Spinach Creek Farm northwest of Fairbanks.
Both spring and fall come later than they used to, said Mayo, who’s farmed for more than 20 years. This season, Spinach Creek produced about half the carrots of a peak year — 8 tons — because a chilly spring delayed planting, among other factors.
Without a hard frost even into late September, the kale, cabbage and kohlrabi still in the fields aren’t growing anymore.
“The changing climate hasn’t made it easier,” he said. “We can say that for sure.”
Those erratic swings are indicative of the variability that accompanies climate change, researchers say.
Diminishing sea ice and increasing sea surface temperatures over most of the North Pacific Ocean “are going to create patterns of variability we didn’t used to see as often,” Littell said.
“As we move into the future, you get a scenario where even though the average temperature is going up, there’s still that variability where some years are good, some years are bad,” he said. “If you sank all your money into growing apricots or apples, some variety that isn’t well adapted here, and then you lose the flowers two out of three years, you may not make your money back for a while.”