Monday, April 12, 2010

Inuit’s Verify Arctic Weather is Increasingly Unpredictable

A recent study confirms that weather in part of the Arctic is becoming more unpredictable – a claim verified by Inuit elders and hunters. According to the large population of Arctic natives, the weather is not just getting warmer, it's getting weirder.

Specific climate change research in the Arctic region began as an attempt to reconcile differences between what Inuit’s were saying about their weather and what scientists were recording. Inuit hunters used to be able to count on stable weather, but were increasingly complaining that conditions were swinging wildly from day to day, making their traditional prediction skills less useful and endangering them on the land. However, such anomalies weren't showing up in the long-range studies developed by researchers.

In trying to understand the difference, the weather in two Nunavut communities – Baker Lake and Clyde River – were examined for short-term, day-to-day variability. Inuit hunters said that the greatest unpredictability was in June's spring weather. Therefore, a study was conducted that combined weather information from detailed, lengthy hunter interviews together with hourly temperature logs dating back more than 40 years. The two information sources backed each other up. Likewise, a statistical analysis showed that in the 1960s, June weather persistence was about 80 percent of the maximum rating. By the turn of the millennium, persistence had dropped as low as 20 percent. The conclusion made was that the weather itself isn't necessarily outside the normal range, but the speed with which it changes is.

This is not the first time scientists have turned to native people for information. NOAA has twice changed its report of the Arctic's whale population based on indigenous people’s report that revealed more whales than counted by the government.