Nunavut turns to tech to help residents prepare for climate change
Less predictable weather 'the type of thing we're going to be seeing more of'
One of the snowiest Aprils in Iqaluit's history was quickly replaced by an unusual warm spell, something Nunavummiut should expect to see more often.
"Occasionally we get colder bouts of weather, other times we'll get much warmer. And right now we're seeing a really quick thaw this spring and certainly, linked with global increases in temperatures," said Colleen Healy, Nunavut's climate change program manager with the Department of Environment.
"It's the type of thing we're going to be seeing more of."
To better prepare Nunavummiut in the face of a changing climate, the territory has launched an online climate change primer. Tukisigiaqta or "let's go understand together" is an interactive online teaching tool available in three languages combining traditional and modern knowledge to teach Nunavummiut how to better prepare themselves.
"We're seeing storms coming in much quicker then before. They're less predictable. So you might go out on a sunny afternoon thinking you're just going to Ski-Doo down on the bay for a bit, and have trouble coming back home. And we're seeing that more and more," Healy said.
Healy advises packing enough supplies to last for 72 hours, bringing a SPOT device and telling a family member if you're heading out on the land.
The warm weather led to the cancellation of an annual snowmobile race between Iqaluit and Kimmirut in April, after much of the path melted away.
The race had been postponed after one of a string of blizzards to hit Nunavut's capital earlier in the month. It was the snowiest April in 48 years. Environment Canada measures snowfall in melted snow and in April, there was 82 millilitres of snow, just shy of a record 88 millilitres in April 1968.
Pangnirtung, NU sitting at 10° smashing the previous record of 2.4° back in 1996. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CBCNorth?src=hash">#CBCNorth</a> <a href="https://t.co/9lC6MdR6JM">pic.twitter.com/9lC6MdR6JM</a>—@a_brauweiler
The hot spell has also cancelled an annual char-fishing tournament near Pangnirtung scheduled later in May after the hamlet has seen recent record breaking temperatures.
James Qitsualik grew up on the land in Gjoa Haven. The 49-year-old said he has noticed over the years that the amount of snowfall is lessening, cutting down the winter season.
"[The ice] takes longer to freeze up in the fall and then it doesn't stick around as long," he said.
"We've seen a few more deaths, people breaking through the ice, where it could have been safe."
A shorter ice season isn't the only change Qitsualik has seen. He said some rivers and streams have dried up and erosion has flattened some areas. It's not the only noticeable change.
"We're seeing different birds up here, even bugs," he said.
"We never, ever had robins. Now we're sighting robins."