California’s Governor Jerry Brown Learns About Climate Change Science in Nome
NGEE Arctic researchers recently took Governor Jerry Brown, his wife, and his staff, to the NGEE Arctic Council Field site on the Seward Peninsula. The California governor was stopping in Nome on his way to a climate meeting in Vladivostock, Russia. The 79-year-old governor wanted to learn the importance of the Arctic in the context of climate change. Amy Breen, Bob Bolton and Lydia Vaughn were his tour guides and educators. Breen is a terrestrial ecologist who works with tundra plants and Bolton is a hydrologist who specializes in the interaction of the peninsula’s frozen ground with its many waterways. Both work at the International Arctic Research Center, part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Vaughn is an ecosystem ecologist who worked in Barrow with NGEE Arctic as a PhD student at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and is presently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California Berkeley. The group drove the gravel road that leads 72 miles from Nome to Council and back, stopping a number of times along the way. Once at the Council field site, the scientists led Brown and his wife out on the spongy mat of tundra plants. The Governor used a thaw depth probe to measure the depth to permafrost. Bolton also dug a soil plug to give the Governor an idea of the amount of carbon that is sequestered in Arctic soils. During the field trip, Breen handed him a map of Alaska showing the statewide average of 3.7 degrees Fahrenheit (2.1 degrees C) warming in mean annual temperatures from 1949 to 2016. At that point, Brown realized the magnitude of the far north’s potential to release greenhouse gases. The governor came to learn why the far north mattered, and we believe he left with a deeper appreciation of the Arctic.