The Guardian's Suzanne Goldenberg takes a fossil fueled trip to a remote Alaskan village to tell us recent global warming caused it to sink – but that's not the cause

UPDATE: A companion essay to this one, showing how Alaska’s 30 year period of warmth is a product of ocean cycles and now coming to an end is now online here.

“America’s First Climate Refugees” are actually a victim of a poorly executed previous government relocation program in 1959 and a change in ocean patterns in 1976.

Some days you just have to laugh at these clowns. The Guardian’s Suzanne Goldenberg seems to be in a clown class by herself when it comes to totally botching a story. I suspect her emotions got the better of her. For example, what are the odds that this photo was staged?


Click image for The Guardian story

Such photo manipulation of children by the press has happened before. Flooded area? Hardly. It’s a permafrost puddle, one of thousands in the region around Newtok as part of the natural landscape, though this one may be the result of human influence on the permafrost. Note the concrete remnants.

Here, in this photo from the Fish and Wildlife Service, you can see what I’m speaking of.

Permafrost is a powerful influence on tundra life. In summer, it traps a layer of water close to the surface, keeping many tundra soils soggy. It cools the soil and the roots of tundra plants, slowing decomposition and growth. Its presence influences freeze-thaw cycles, forming unique tundra landforms.

Polygons (pictured to the right) form when soil contraction creates cracks that collect water above the permafrost layer. This water then freezes and expands, forming ice wedges that force the cracks to widen. Years pass and the process repeats, dry winter cold widening cracks, and summer thaws providing water. Joined across the landscape, these cracks create a network of polygons.

In fact if you look at the aerial photos of region around Newtok, you’ll note it is a close match to the USF&W description, that is, when it isn’t a frozen city:


This is Ayaprun School in the village of Newtok in winter. Source: Lower Kuskokwim School District

Note all the human habitation. Here’s what USF&W says about that and permafrost:

Thermokarst Slumping

Where the insulating layer of plant material has been removed, permafrost melts and the ground above slumps. This is called thermokarst slumping, and it can be a big problem where humans have disturbed the soils.

Goldenberg of course thought nothing of those chunks of old concrete the child was standing on, preferring to blame global warming instead. She probably had to, since it is likely she made the pitch to Guardian editors based on that. I can’t imagine her getting funding for the trip to document some “Thermokarst Slumping”. Yeah that’ll fly. No we need climate refugees.

What is most interesting is that that villagers didn’t choose to live there, they were forced to by the Alaskan government, they were refugees back in 1959:

The Yup’iks, who had lived in these parts of Alaska for hundreds of years, had traditionally used the area around present-day Newtok as a seasonal stopping-off place, convenient for late summer berry picking.

Even then, their preferred encampment, when they passed through the area, was a cluster of sod houses called Kayalavik, some miles further up river. But over the years, the authorities began pushing native Alaskans to settle in fixed locations and to send their children to school.

It was difficult for supply barges to manoeuvre as far up river as Kayalavik. After 1959, when Alaska became a state, the new authorities ordered villagers to move to a more convenient docking point.

Hmm, I’ll trust the Yup’iks to know better where to camp, after all, they had thousands of years of experience before the bureaucrat tribe set foot in Alaska. When you get relocated to an island surrounded by running rivers on all sides, do you think erosion might be a problem in your future?


Then, Goldenberg tries to convince readers of the global warming threat with this temperature graph (showing much of the year being below normal)

Graphic by The Guardian

Graphic by The Guardian Source:,

But, when you look at Alaska as a whole in this graph from the Alaska Climate research Center, temperature is trending down since about 2000 and is below normal for 2012:



Since Newtok is in what the Alaska Climate Research Center describes as “maritime”, and only about 20 miles from the Pacific Ocean, you can safely bet the climate there is closely linked with ocean temperatures.

Note that in the graph above, about 1976, the temperature of Alaska changed dramatically. Why?

Perhaps this paper will tell us more:  Hartmann and Wendler 2005 “The Significance of the 1976 Pacific Climate Shift in the Climatology of Alaska.

I have a definitive essay from Bob Tisdale coming up next that I’ve been sitting on for months, for just this occasion, that will show that the “global warming” that Goldenberg claims is ruining towns in Alaska, is really all about a change in ocean patterns.

With what looks to be another climate shift in the making now, what will a colder future do for this problem in Alaska?

Finally, about that erosion.

Here is the Corp of Engineers report Goldenberg references:

A study by the US Army Corps of Engineers on the effects of climate change on native Alaskan villages, the one that predicted the school would be underwater by 2017, found no remedies for the loss of land in Newtok.

That report makes no mention of “global warming” being the cause of the issues at Newtok either in the summary or the conclusions. They say it is erosion, enhanced by “thermal degradation”, something you’d expect in a village that has disturbed the soil and has gone from heating their homes naturally (in those upriver sod houses pre-1959) to now using heating oil as evidenced by the oil tanks in the lead photo from the Guardian article and in the Google Earth imagery. Apparently the river is silting up making delivery a problem, from Anchorage Daily News:

One of Alaska’s most eroded coastal villages is facing a new crisis: the closest river has gotten so shallow that barges can no longer make regular fuel deliveries to the remote community.

The Corp of Engineers says about the erosion:

Newtok’s riverine erosion on the Ninglick River is aggravated by wave action and thermal degradation of the ice-rich riverbank. The long-term, average erosion rate is 71 feet per year, with peak erosion of approximately 113 feet in a single year. The community is experiencing almost annual flooding and has a water supply contaminated by flood-driven sewage spills. Severe damage is expected within 10 years. The community is actively involved in relocating and is pursuing several

projects to relocate as quickly as possible.

My view is that Newtok was a bad place for the government to relocate the Yup’iks to in the first place, and all was likely fine for awhile, but then the soil was disturbed, permafrost issues like “Thermokarst Slumping” took hold in that small area of habitation, the soil started to weaken and become more prone to erosion, waste heat and other issues associated with the habitation exacerbated the issue, and then the Pacific Climate Shift of 1976 kicked it, long before James Hansen started wailing about the threat of global warming in 1988.

Do you think the Yup’iks would be labeled “climate refugees” by an climate activist reporter today if they were still living upriver where they originally preferred to be? Looks like a clear case of the Prime Directive being violated and resulting in a government created mess to me.

Of course beach erosion in Alaska isn’t new. The only thing that new is activist disguised as reporter Suzanne Goldenberg thinks there’s a news story about global warming there.

See this from climatologist Dr. Pat Michaels in 2007:

World Climate Report » Settling on an unstable Alaskan shore: A warning unheeded

In earlier times, when the Inuit were more nomadic, they simply would have broken camp and moved to a more suitable location. In fact, the historical scientific literature contains references to abandoned Inuit camps located on the precipices of an eroding coast. For instance, Gerald MacCarthy, in an article published in Arctic in 1953 entitled “Recent Change in the Shoreline Near Point Barrow, Alaska” wrote:

At ‘Nuwuk’ [Point Barrow] the evidence of rapid retreat is especially striking. The abandoned native village of the same name, which formerly occupied most of the area immediately surrounding the station site, is being rapidly eaten away by the retreat of the bluff and in October 1949 the remains of four old pit dwellings, then partially collapsed and filled with solid ice, were exposed in cross section in the face of the bluff. In 1951 these four dwellings had been completely eroded away and several more exposed.

Coming up next, Bob Tisdales essay on The Significance of the 1976 Pacific Climate Shift in the Climatology of Alaska.

Goldenberg would do well to read it before she traipses off to another Alaskan village to declare them “climate refugees”.


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That woman is a menace. End of.


Tell them, not us!


Yup.And the same crap happens,every year,on Ellesmere Island around Eureka and 200 nm north at Alert.If we flew east,hello Thule.West? Rekayavik North? Well after 20 minutes,there is no north,everything is south.Why are these pathological liars not in jail?


There were a number of such relocations. They were not forced in the classical sense, more like encouraged by making the alternatives very difficult. Almost all were poorly conceived. as the migratory geologic purpose of the tribes was poorly understood, and frequently conflicted with ports or airfields.


It appears as if the child was placed on that concrete slab – having no mud on the pants that overhang the shoes.

Eve Stevens

I guess that Suzanne has turned off her electricity and is not using fossil fuels, nor is the Guardian?


For ‘a child playing in a flooded area’, his white trainers and overlength jeans seem remarkably clean. I wonder if an adult had plonked him on the piece of concrete in the middle of a puddle to create a photo opportunity? Surely not – this is The Gruaniad

James at 48

I have yet to see a rigorous report of any kind that depicts mass permafrost melt. Every permafrost melt I have investigated has been local in nature and due to ground disturbance by humans or UHI.

Nik Marshall-Blank

I normally would’ve posted a comment at the Guardian but my second account has now been banned. I normally only source scientific papers but even most of those posts have been have been deleted.
I also noticed that despite older articles still open to comments the 400 ppm CO2 one is now closed since the admission that revised data shows 400 ppm was not reached.
Anything which is under editorial control, even comment blogs such as these at the Guardian are subject to UK PCC standards so if you feel you have any comments unjustly edited you should complain to In future, keep a copy of your posts.

As I was saying….Climate change??!!
We all remember the story of Joseph who was able to correctly predict 7 years of abundance and 7 years of famine. I am sure that he was inspired by some knowledge that God impaired on him. Most probably he observed the direction of the winds during drought times (Gen. 41:23&27) and he may have had some access to the records of the flooding of the Nile. The Egyptians were good at keeping an eye on this. After looking at the whole problem of climate change, as a hobby, I find myself in a similar position as Joseph did. According to my calculations we are about 7 years away from the 1932 Dust Bowl droughts in the US that lasted until 1939. These droughts were also thought to have been due to a change in the direction of the winds. It was one of the worst environmental disasters of the Twentieth Century anywhere in the world. Three million people left their farms on the Great Plains during the drought and half a million migrated to other states in the USA. To learn more about climate change and what we must do, please read my blog post,

John West

But, flooding = wetlands = good (well, it used to).
Are we charging these people for their expanded wetlands? Come to think of it, we should be charging the world for climate optimization, wetlands expansion, and marine environment expansion. /sarc

If the newspaper says there are climate refugees, it must be true. Until an even larger and more influential paper or news outlet proves the first paper is not telling the whole truth. Consider this to be blood in the water now, and that news reporters are like sharks who will go into a feeding frenzy when the impending collapse of AGW becomes too irresistible to feed upon. They will eat each in order to preserve themselves, with lines like “we were assured by scientists that AGW was above reproach, but now we know that The Guardian’s Suzanne Goldenberg never consulted with skeptics in an objective manner…” or “reporters misled by officials operating under environmentalist agenda”

Bloke down the pub

I wonder what she did to persuade Alan Rusbridger to approve the expenses claim. If he reads this post, I wonder if he’ll ask for the money back.


That is one nice communication, Radar and Sat setup they have there in that first picture. The second picture actually has a wind mill behind all those heavy power lines that keep them warm too. Let alone the massive runway in the 3rd picture. Looks like the Space Shuttle could land there if we had one. Suprising what you can find in a climate refugee town. LOL!

Heaven forbid it would ever get warm enough there to grow a garden.


And in recent news Alaska continues to suffer from the effects of catastrophic warming.

May 12, 2013
Alaska Endures Record Cold While Still Buried Under Snow
…..The five-week period from April 3 to May 7 was the coldest in 109 years of record keeping at Fairbanks, Alaska, according to the National Weather Service (NWS)……
“This just goes to show how consistently cold this spring has been over a large part of Alaska,” Lundberg added.

This is a further sign of recent climate change.


did you make a comment below which was removed. It looks like your face under the handle “wattsbot” The comment was removed by moderator.


It looks like 3 comments were removed for “wattsbot”.

As she is in Alaska, tell her to visit Nenana, there is still ice on the river.

I read Suzanne Goldenberg’s and quite frankly it was painfull, the way she would report a series of facts then completely deny the logical conclusion of those facts, like how a village, built on a mud-flats delta, surrounded by a river on 3 sides might erode with or without climate change; and they call us deniers!

Cyrus P Stell

Same story, different ocean basin: And the story, although brief, does acknowledge that the “rising” seas are due to sand-mining, the obligatory “…made worse by climate change.” is apparently a freebie, pure conjecture, not supported by any references whatsoever.


Thanks for the clarification. I said I give up on commenting on the Guardian after being banned over 8 times but today I decided to have another stab ;)I have just posted 3 comments under ButWhatAboutTheFacts but expect them to be deleted soon and my account disabled. Here are the comments:
…1)Let’s take this one step at a time. Could it be that Suzanne Goldenberg saw the child as a victim of ‘Thermokarst Slumping’ caused by direct human disturbance and nothing to do with climate?….
2) These villagers became refugees in 1959 when they were forced to settle there. They have have had hundreds of years to decide their preferred areas, had they been left free to decide (they being in the best position and experienced) then this story might not have appeared in the Guardian.
In Alaska temperature has been trending down since 2000 and is below normal for 2012.
3) Is the erosion natural or man-made? If yes then what about this from 1953?
“‘Arctic’ Gerald MacCarthy
“Recent Change in the Shoreline Near Point Barrow, Alaska”
At ‘Nuwuk’ [Point Barrow] the evidence of rapid retreat is especially striking. The abandoned native village of the same name, which formerly occupied most of the area immediately surrounding the station site, is being rapidly eaten away by the retreat of the bluff and in October 1949 the remains of four old pit dwellings, then partially collapsed and filled with solid ice, were exposed in cross section in the face of the bluff. In 1951 these four dwellings had been completely eroded away and several more exposed.”

Robert M

It has been a very cold spring here… This little tidbit is from the current forecast discussion.

Jeff Norman

It is not clear from the article if Suzanne Goldenberg is actually in Alaska.


“It appears as if the child was placed on that concrete slab – having no mud on the pants that overhang the shoes.”
Or the shoes, even. I wanted to be first with that but I see that I am well down the list.
If Goldenberg manages that with a polar bear then that WILL be news!


What climate crisis?

In a special three part series on the imminent crisis, the Guardian has visited Newtok…..

They can’t see the wood for the trees.


“I suspect her emotions got the better of her. ” Nope its becasue she is piimping long and hard for ‘the cause ‘ which means anything can and will be used , the facts mean nothing its all about the ‘impact ‘


It is The Zombie Story From Hell. No matter how many times you kill this thing, it keeps coming back to life.
I first came across this in 2009 and wrote a short piece on it for what is now a nearly defunct website. See If It Makes People Believe, Is It Okay To Lie About Global Warming? Warren Meyer (Climate Skeptic) then picked up on it in 10 Acres of Melting = Global Warming
In my five minutes of research, this is what I came up with.
The State Of Alaska Newtok Planning Group.
The US Army Corps of Engineers Alaska District Soils and Geology Section.
The Newtok Transportation Plan.
Far North Science
…all of which cover the actual details extensively.
So could someone explain why the gullible editors at The Guardian flew a propagandist half-way around the world to learn what could have been gleamed from the web?


A slow news day is when nothing happens. A bad news day is when they make stuff up about global warming. We’ve had more bad than slow lately.

Mark Albright

The cold continues in Alaska…yesterday 13 May 2013 both Bettles AK, with 10 F, and Tanana AK, with 16 F, observed the coldest temperatures ever recorded so late in the winter season.  Records extend back to 1951 for Bettles and 1949 for Tanana.


Russell Cook (@questionAGW) says:
May 14, 2013 at 10:15 am
“Consider this to be blood in the water now, and that news reporters are like sharks who will go into a feeding frenzy when the impending collapse of AGW becomes too irresistible to feed upon. They will eat each in order to preserve themselves”
No, never. They are all statists. When they maul each other then only to deliver a distraction from a big government foul-up. So when you see such mauling you know that something’s going on that they need to cover up.

Thanks for this Anthony. You are absolutely right to point out that numerous state-mandated resettlement schemes (be it soviet collectivisation, African villagisation, Indonesian transmigrasi, contemporary highland to lowland resettlement in Ethiopia etc etc) has left millions if people globally on land that should not and cannot sustain such populations. When the unsuitability of the land and the lack investment in the relocation becomes clear and people move on or are displaced there will inevitably be those who claim their predicament to be a consequence if climate change. Much more likely it is a result of failed hubristic development and modernisation schemes – plus a good deal of undemocratic politics.

greenie watch

When will the editors of this newspaper realise that everything they publish penned by this person adds to the “loss-making” part of the title “loss-making Guardian”?
(Can I draw attention to my new paper “Loss-making Guardian staff are the world’s first climate refugees. They are forced to find jobs!”?
Sorry about the paywall, but I have pay my energy bills.)


Apparently the local people of this area use mostly fuel oil, kerosene, etc. (94.44%) for heating. Don’t they emit soot which settles on any available snow and ice in time for the spring and summer?–historical-house-heating-fuel-data.htm

If ms. Goldenbum married Seth Boringstern they would have …………

Chuck Nolan

That’s it?
That’s all they got?

jonny old boy

joke of a paper… who buys Brit newspapers ?

Dr T G Watkins

It is probable that more people read Graduian (sic) articles on Anthony’s site than the actual loss making publication. LOL.


Picture captrion “A child plays in…” walk away. The discussion is framed, the conclusion forgone, by a certian age you’ve already picked a charity. Queue up Sarah McLaughlin and some three legged kittens, my eyes feel dry.

Speaking of Alaska recent cold, here are 2 interesting links about the “Nenana Ice Classic”
There have already been some posts but here is some data about the dates for the ice outs which began in 1917 – here is from a 2012 brochure:
The ice out date for 2012 was April 23.
Here is the Nenana Ice Cam for today:

Lars P.

Hm, is here anything that could make for a new line in the warmlist?
“america’s first climate refugee”

Henry Galt

Someone in the spammer fraternity has a sense of humor. I have been getting spam from SG for months. The usual stuff of spam.
I am making a resolution now. I am not visiting the type of “news” site that supports this meme again. I used to read it and get worked up, join in and get attacked and covered in spittle.
I may even avoid reading articles that expose and debunk this junk.
Life is too short to support this ghastly, undying, fear-mongering, twisted rattlebag of lies and distortion by interacting with it.


They did not like your WATTSBOT Anthony, just been over to the Guardian mostly bleeding hearts ..and one Danny Heim with tears??
Some one was good enough to post a link to this thread on your site,though would expect no one to read it ..too many facts from JUSTTHEFACTS Good Lad!!


They think they’re scaring people. What they’re really doing is teaching people to be skeptics.


The ignorance of this woman is breathtaking in the extreme. Perhaps she might want to know Eskimos, the name back then, were the original kayak builders of their day. Hint – they used them paddling in the open Arctic Ocean hunting long before white man ever came to North America. Paddling in the open Arctic Ocean means open water, melting long before white man. Hence thawing the permafrost as well long before white man. God! Stupid doesn’t even cover this bimbo.


Camera looking NEE. This sorts out the photo background, buildings, tank, dish.
Bing browser map Blue spot is slightly wrong position.
Google Earth try 2007 image at 60.937932° -164.631941°


Jimbo says:
May 14, 2013 at 11:24 am
Thanks for the clarification. I said I give up on commenting on the Guardian after being banned over 8 times but today I decided to have another stab ;)I have just posted 3 comments under ButWhatAboutTheFacts but expect them to be deleted soon and my account disabled. Here are the comments:
they were there 5 minutes ago when I read them, well done 🙂

Nigel S

jonny old boy says:
May 14, 2013 at 1:25 pm
joke of a paper… who buys Brit newspapers ?
Teachers, polytechnic lecturers, BBC, civil servants. The Grauniad (sic.) is kept alive by Auto Trader (irony anyone?) and govt. and BBC job ads.

Nigel S

Hate to be a pedant but I think that cute kid is standing on a piece of polystyrene (styrofoam?).


The grandad is kept alive by a huge trust. — source BBC raido interview of the editor.
More or less he explained they can carry on for ages.