Falling through ice and drowning is a perennial risk in northern communities where winter ice is a defining part of the environment. But to Leary, the four-wheeler accident stuck out as an especially harrowing one, in part because of its timing: It occurred in late March 2019, a time of year when the Kuskokwim River, which runs through Bethel, should be frozen solid and safe for locals to use as a highway to drive from place to place.
“I thought to myself as I was [going] out there — this shouldn’t be happening,” Leary said in an interview. “We should have at least another month of safe travel on river ice.”
Far from an isolated incident, Leary’s experience reflects a reality facing northern communities around the world: As winters grow warmer because of climate change, seasonal lake, river and sea ice is becoming treacherous. Now, a new study is warning