Climate change, health and the LEO Network in Alaska

Kivalina faces coastal erosion
Kivalina is an Alaska village facing coastal erosion. Photo courtesy ShoreZone/flickr

LEO stands for local environmental observations. It is a network of on-the-ground observers and topic experts who share knowledge about unusual animal, environment and weather events. Members of the network can connect with others in their community, share observations, raise awareness, and find answers about significant environmental events. They can also engage with topic experts in different organizations and become part of a broader observer community.

Here is an example. A resident of Shishmaref in late December 2016 reported on the LEO Network that “The Bering Strait sea ice along the shores of Shishmaref was finally freezing up, but, due to strong southerly winds, the thin ocean sea ice blew away.”

A scientist from UAF responded with this information: “At Shishmaref, during the past 20 years first ice has appeared on average during the third week of November, based on satellite images, as found by Andy Mahoney and colleagues here at UAF. A late appearance of first ice would have occurred by the first week of December. Based on those long-term observations, this year’s delay into the last week of December is unusual. This late freeze-up is part of a very warm year in Alaska, with ocean temperatures much higher than normal and many of the weather stations on land reporting a record warm year for 2016.”

Observation from the LEO Network

Because Alaska rural communities are among the first to experience significant impacts from climate change, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium in 2009 created a Center for Climate and Health to better understand connections between climate change, environmental impacts and health effects. The tribal health consortium launched the LEO Network in 2012, and added a related app in 2015.

And LEO isn’t just in Alaska. It links Arctic observers with others around the world. Join us, and find out who is involved, what they are learning and if there’s a spot for you on the network. On the next Hometown Alaska.


HOST: Kathleen McCoy


  • Michael Brubaker, LEO Network, Director Community Environment and Safety at ANTHC



  • Call 550-8433 (Anchorage) or 1-888-353-5752  (statewide) during the live broadcast (2:00 – 3:00pm)
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  • REPEAT BROADCAST: Wednesday,  August 9, 2017, 8:00 – 9:00 p.m. (Alaska time)
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