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Legendary Iditarod Sled Dog Race Moved North As Alaska Deals With Climate Change
Alaska is having yet another mild winter. A ski area near Juneau recently had to close until it gets more snow. Now, the iconic Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is dealing with the consequences of a changing climate. For only the second time in its 43-year history, the start of the Iditarod will move north to Fairbanks.
The 2014 Iditarod was a no-snow dog sled race... & 2015? http://t.co/N6lHoj57Aj via @mashable
— nick burns (@NickRadioActive) December 30, 2014
Traditionally, the race starts in Anchorage, but due to a lack of snow in certain areas, the starting line will be moved 300 miles north. The starting line was moved to Fairbanks one other time in 2003 when unseasonably warm weather made the trail impassable.
The ceremonial start will still take place in Anchorage on March 7, but the official start of the race will be in Fairbanks on March 9. The race will still end in Nome as always, but the rerouted course is 968 miles long as opposed to the standard 987 miles from Anchorage.
The decision to reroute the course was made last week when the board of directors of the Iditarod Trail Committee held a special meeting. Board members heard a trail report from a committee, which flew over various portions of the trail to assess the conditions and found that "conditions were worse in the critical areas than in 2014 and therefore, not safe enough for this year’s race."
The race was almost moved to Fairbanks last year because of a lack of snow, but officials decided to keep the start of the race in Anchorage. "Bruised and beaten up" racers were extremely critical of that decision because the trail was so treacherous, according to News Miner. This year, the course from Anchorage looked even worse. "The troublesome areas had half as much snow as in 2014, and the bad spots were twice as long," said Rick Swenson, Trail Committee board member.
“This year, you can’t go through a rock,” said board member Aaron Burmeister. “There’s boulders and rocks that we’ve never seen there in 20-some years that are littering all the gorge, places that you’d never even see a rock because you’re going over feet of snow going through there. This year, you’re looking at bare ground.”
“While some snow did fall east of the Alaska Range over the past couple of weeks, other parts of the trail did not get much or any of it at all,” said Stan Hooley, executive director for the Iditarod Trail Committee. It might seem early to make the call, but Race Marshall Mark Nordman explains that transporting and coordinating all of the supplies and equipment takes time.
The unseasonably warm weather and lack of snow is not some anomaly. Over the past 50 years, temperatures across Alaska increased by an average of 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Alaska's winter warming was twice the national average over that time period, and average annual temperatures in the state are projected to increase 3.5 to 7 degrees by 2050.
Anywhere from 50 to 100 teams race every year. The sport has a long history that goes back far before it became a formalized race when it was simply a means of transportation. Now, climate change puts the legacy of the "last great race" in question.
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Cabin fever is often associated with being cooped up on a rainy weekend or stuck inside during a winter blizzard.
In reality, though, it can actually occur anytime you feel isolated or disconnected from the outside world.
What is cabin fever?<p>In popular expressions, cabin fever is used to explain feeling bored or listless because you've been stuck inside for a few hours or days. But that's not the reality of the symptoms.</p><p>Instead, cabin fever is a series of negative emotions and distressing sensations people may face if they're isolated or feeling cut off from the world.</p><p>These feelings of isolation and loneliness are more likely in times of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/yes-covid-19-cases-are-rising-why-you-still-need-to-practice-social-distancing" target="_blank">social distancing</a>, self-quarantining during a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-a-pandemic" target="_blank">pandemic</a>, or sheltering in place because of severe weather.</p><p>Indeed, cabin fever can lead to a series of symptoms that can be difficult to manage without proper coping techniques.</p><p>Cabin fever isn't a recognized psychological disorder, but that doesn't mean the feelings aren't real. The distress is very real. It can make fulfilling the requirements of everyday life difficult.</p>
What are the symptoms?<p>Symptoms of cabin fever go far beyond feeling bored or "stuck" at home. They're rooted in an intense feeling of isolation and may include:</p><ul><li>restlessness</li><li>decreased motivation</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/irritability" target="_blank">irritability</a></li><li>hopelessness</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/unable-to-concentrate" target="_blank">difficulty concentrating</a></li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/irregular-sleep-wake-syndrome" target="_blank">irregular sleep patterns</a>, including sleepiness or sleeplessness</li><li>difficulty waking up</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/lethargy" target="_blank">lethargy</a></li><li>distrust of people around you</li><li>lack of patience</li><li>persistent <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/depression-vs-sadness" target="_blank">sadness or depression<br></a></li></ul>
What can help you cope with cabin fever?<p>Because cabin fever isn't a recognized psychological condition, there's no standard "treatment." However, mental health professionals do recognize that the symptoms are very real.</p><p>The coping mechanism that works best for you will have a lot to do with your personal situation and the reason you're secluded in the first place.</p><p>Finding meaningful ways to engage your brain and occupy your time can help alleviate the distress and irritability that cabin fever brings.</p><p>The following ideas are a good place to start.</p>
When to get help<p>Cabin fever is often a fleeting feeling. You may feel irritable or frustrated for a few hours, but having a virtual chat with a friend or finding a task to distract your mind may help erase the frustrations you felt earlier.</p><p>Sometimes, however, the feelings may grow stronger, and no coping mechanisms may be able to successfully help you eliminate your feelings of isolation, sadness, or depression.</p><p>What's more, if your time indoors is prolonged by outside forces, like weather or extended shelter-in-place orders from your local government, feelings of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety" target="_blank">anxiety</a> and fear are valid.</p><p>In fact, anxiety may be at the root of some cabin fever symptoms. This may make symptoms worse.</p><p>If you feel that your symptoms are getting worse, consider reaching out to a mental health professional who can help you understand what you're experiencing. Together, you can identify ways to overcome the feelings and anxiety.</p><p>Of course, if you're in isolation or practicing social distancing, you'll need to look for alternative means for seeing a mental health expert.</p><p>Telehealth options may be available to connect you with your therapist if you already have one. If you don't, reach out to your doctor for recommendations about mental health specialists who can connect with you online.</p><p>If you don't want to talk to a therapist, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/top-iphone-android-apps" target="_blank">smartphone apps for depression</a> may provide a complementary option for addressing your cabin fever symptoms.</p>
The bottom line<p>Isolation isn't a natural state for many people. We are, for the most part, social animals. We enjoy each other's company. That's what can make staying at home for extended periods of time difficult.</p><p>However, whether you're sheltering at home to avoid dangerous weather conditions or heeding the guidelines to help minimize the spread of a disease, staying at home is often an important thing we must do for ourselves and our communities.</p><p>If and when it's necessary, finding ways to engage your brain and occupy your time may help bat back cabin fever and the feelings of isolation and restlessness that often accompany it.</p>
Pope Francis spoke about the novel coronavirus, suggesting that the global pandemic might be one of nature's responses to the man-made climate crisis.