It’s been an interesting week for Arctic news. Here are some of the week’s top stories:

ITK Arctic Climate ChangeThe Inuit Qaujisarvingat (Inuit Knowledge Centre) at Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, together with McGill University and the Nunavut Research Institute released a systematic literature review and gap analysis of the human dimensions of climate change in the Canadian Arctic: What we know, don’t know, and need to know about climate change in Inuit Nunangat.  The focus is on the Central and Easter Arctic regions of Nunavut, Nunavik, and Nunatisiavut and complements a similar review that was conducted for the Inuvialuit Settlement Region in 2009.

Why we think it’s interesting:

Northern communities are no longer asking whether climate change will have real impacts on their lives; it already is. Not all of it is negative, but understanding and responding to the current reality and predicting short and long-term continued impacts is critical for these communities.

 


Photo: John Healey

The CBC’s Radio Canada International reported on its online site, Eye on the Arctic that the beluga whale population in southwest Alaska’s Cook Inlet has fallen to its lowest level in nearly 20 years. This particular population is listed as endangered (different populations have different statuses). But there are many questions about the reliability of the data.

Why we think it’s interesting:

Of particular interest to us is the uncertainty in the data. The issue highlights a significant problem facing those tasked with managing wildlife across the North: we still have very little data about the numbers and locations of Arctic wildlife. This lack of information, combined with an urgency to make decisions about resource use in the North, results in considerable controversy, disagreement and animosity among stakeholders. Ultimately, these issues will only be resolved through greater scientific understanding and integration of local traditional/historical knowledge.

 


Pack ice

Photo: Eric Solomon

A study published in the most recent edition of the journal Nature looked at a consistent trend in the Beaufort Sea (Northwestern North America) since the 1990s: increasing freshwater content in the upper layers of the ocean. The increase in freshwater has generally been attributed to input from melting ice and runoff. This study determined that the freshening Beaufort Sea is resulting from changes in ocean circulation that are transporting freshwater from rivers on the Russian coastline. That coastline is, in turn, becoming saltier as the freshwater is carried away.

Why we think it’s interesting:

The significant point is that the entire Arctic Ocean may not be getting fresher as has been assumed. Why do we care? Well, there are many impacts associated with how much freshwater there is and where it is. Its effects range from ice and climate impacts to food security and safety.  For example, freshwater creates a boundary layer at the surface of the ocean and can protect sea ice from warmer, saltier water coming in from elsewhere in the ocean. Fresher water also causes things to sink faster. Local hunters have noted, for instance, that recently killed seals sink quicker than they used to, making it harder to retrieve them.


For continuous up-to-date news and information, follow the Vancouver Aquarium’s Arctic Connections Twitter feed: @ArcticConnect.

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