Climate Change and Sea Ice: Local Observations from the Canadian Western Arctic

Theresa Nichols, Fikret Berkes, Dyanna Jolly, Norman B. Snow, The Community of Sachs Harbour (N.W.T.)

Abstract


Can local observations and indigenous knowledge be used to provide information that complements research on climate change? Using participatory research methodology and semi-directed interviews, we explored local and traditional knowledge about changes in sea ice in the area of Sachs Harbour, Northwest Territories. In this small Inuvialuit community, we interviewed all of the 16 community members and elders considered to be local experts on sea ice to ask about their observations. We organized their comments under the headings multiyear ice, first-year ice, fractures and pressure ridges, breakup and freeze-up seasons, and other climate-related variables that influence sea ice (such as changes in winter, spring and summer temperatures, wind, rain, and thunderstorms). Observations were remarkably consistent in providing evidence of local change in such variables as multiyear ice distribution, first-year ice thickness, and ice breakup dates. The changes observed in the 1990s were said to be without precedent and outside the normal range of variation. In assessing the relevance of Inuvialuit knowledge to scientific research on climate change, we note some of the areas in which sharing of information between the two systems of knowledge may be mutually beneficial. These include the analysis of options for adapting to climate change and the generation of research questions and hypotheses for future studies.


Keywords


Western Arctic; climate change; Inuvialuit; traditional ecological knowledge; sea ice

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14430/arctic484

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