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Inuit Observations Offer New Tool for Climate Change Research

October 30, 2010

From Cempaka Eco Green

Inuit communities that have long paid close attention to the climate have said Arctic weather patterns are shifting–and scientists say they are right

Scientific American, By Lauren Morello and Climatewire

TALKING ABOUT THE WEATHER: Researchers credit a combination of scientific data and traditional environmental knowledge from Inuit communities for shedding new light on an overlooked aspect of climate change. (NATIONAL OCEAN & ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION)
 

Computer models, weather satellites and ice cores are valuable tools for scientists who study how Earth’s climate is changing. But a new study suggests that researchers can add another weapon to their arsenal: the knowledge gathered by indigenous people who have spent generations living off the land in rhythm with weather and seasons.

Researchers at the University of Colorado credit a combination of scientific data and traditional environmental knowledge from two Canadian Inuit communities for shedding new light on an overlooked aspect of climate change.

In recent years, Inuit communities that have long paid close attention to the climate have said their traditional forecasting methods are becoming less accurate. They blame the change on shifting weather patterns.

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“Instead of just glossing over and taking a sort of sound bite — ‘The weather is faster’ — she really sat with people and found it was a problem and at what time scales,” Weatherhead said.

Unexplained changes in weather persistence

The Inuit weather observers Gearheard interviewed told her that the strange weather behavior didn’t occur every year or in every season, but it was becoming more severe when it did happen.

Meanwhile, Weatherhead combed through scientific data and discovered evidence supporting the Inuit observations.

“What we found is that the day-to-day persistence of weather was changing in this more unpredictable manner for at least one of the two locations” included in the study, she said, during a critical time of year — Arctic spring, which occurs in June at the two Canadian sites.

From Cempaka Eco Green

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