If the storms you’ve seen lately seem fierce, imagine being on a barrier island off Alaska with the remnants of a typhoon blowing through. The ground between your neighbor’s house and the water is eroding fast, and you’re out in the wind and ice-cold rain trying to save it.

This kind of crisis has become almost daily life for the search-and-rescue team on Kivalina, a barrier island that is home to about 420 hardy souls off Alaska’s western coast. The sea ice that once protected Kivalina’s coastline is forming later in the fall and melting sooner in the spring as the planet warms, leaving the community at risk. It’s an example of the ways climate change is upending lives around the world and how federal aid is slow to help, as Joshua Griffin, an assistant professor of marine and environmental affairs at the University of Washington, explains.

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Stacy Morford

Environment + Climate Editor

Kivalina is on a narrow barrier island exposed to storms off the Chukchi Sea. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Arctic sea ice loss and fierce storms leave Kivalina fighting to protect its island from climate disasters

P. Joshua Griffin, University of Washington

Ten years after Kivalina’s lawsuit against Exxon over climate change damage was dismissed, the Indigenous community’s search and rescue team is dealing with frequent disasters.

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