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Linking Inuit knowledge and meteorological station observations to understand changing wind patterns at Clyde River, Nunavut

Abstract

Connecting indigenous and scientific observations and knowledge has received much attention in the Arctic, not least in the area of climate change. On some levels, this connection can be established relatively easily, linking observations of similar phenomena or of various effects stemming from the same cause. Closer examinations of specific environmental parameters, however, can lead to far more complex and difficult attempts to make those connections. In this paper we examine observations of wind at Clyde River, Nunavut, Canada. For Inuit, many activities are governed by environmental conditions. Wind, in particular, is identified by Inuit as one of the most important environmental variables, playing a key role in driving sea ice, ocean, and weather conditions that can either enable or constrain hunting, travel, or other important activities. Inuit observe wind patterns closely, and through many means, as a result of their close connection to the land and sea. Inuit in many parts of Nunavut are reporting changes in wind patterns in recent years. At Clyde River, a community on the eastern coast of Baffin Island, Inuit have observed that at least three key aspects of wind have changed over the last few decades: wind variability, wind speed, and wind direction. At the same time, wind observations are also available from an operational weather station located at Clyde River. An analysis of this information shows little change in wind parameters since the mid-1970s. Though the station data and Inuit observations correspond in some instances, overall, there is limited agreement. Although the differences in the two perspectives may point to possible biases that may exist from both sources—the weather station data may not be representative of the region, Inuit observations or explanations may be inaccurate, or the instrumental and Inuit observations may not be of the same phenomena—they also raise interesting questions about methods for observing wind and the nature of Arctic winds.

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Correspondence to Shari Gearheard.

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Gearheard, S., Pocernich, M., Stewart, R. et al. Linking Inuit knowledge and meteorological station observations to understand changing wind patterns at Clyde River, Nunavut. Climatic Change 100, 267–294 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-009-9587-1

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-009-9587-1

Keywords

  • Wind Speed
  • Wind Direction
  • Environment Canada
  • Traditional Ecological Knowledge
  • Wind Pattern