Thursday, October 04, 2007

Dragonflies, open water reveal rapid Arctic change

Pierre Tautu doesn't know whether it's global warming or something else, but over the summer he noticed strange things happening around his Nunavut home in Chesterfield Inlet, at the top of Hudson Bay.

“We still have ice year-round, but there's been a little bit of changes,” he said.

“Different kinds of insects and different kind of birds that come around our area now.”

His hamlet (population 330) is a prime nesting ground for a variety of birds, but last summer the 44-year-old hunter and guide spotted a type of owl he had never seen that far north. For the first time, he also saw a dragonfly in his Inuit community.

“We don't have dragonflies around, but I've seen one,” Mr. Tautu said. “This was just out in our backyard and I was pretty surprised to see one.”

Changes to the environment and climate are usually imperceptible and are visible only when the increments build up over time and result in a trend. But in the summer of 2007, both anecdotal and quantifiable evidence emerged that showed dramatic changes are taking place in the Far North at a faster pace than anyone imagined.

The fabled Northwest Passage is normally still choked with ice during the summer. At its usual low point, 14 per cent of the shipping route remains covered with ice, which prevents ships from passing unless escorted by icebreakers. This year, just 2 per cent was covered with ice, resulting in the second consecutive summer during which an unaided sailboat could pass through.

Back in Chesterfield Inlet yesterday, the snow was flying and the freeze was setting in. “It still looks normal,” Mr. Tautu said. He's not worried about a big melt, figuring the polar bears, other animals and people will adapt. Snow and ice, he said, will always be there. Still, he added, times have changed since his elders could read the weather better than any scientist.

“I was taught about the weather when I was a little boy,” he said. “Nowadays we can't predict it any more.”

Dragonflies, open water reveal rapid Arctic change
DAWN WALTON From Thursday's Globe and Mail
October 4, 2007 at 12:03 AM EDT


Jeni said...

I'd always be happy to volunteer my knees and ankles - they sure can tell when the weather is a-changing!

Shelby said...

the weather is changing always ..