ENVIRONMENT

Interactive maps show decades of climate change effects in Nunavut communities
“Many of the communities are warming quite a bit faster than the global average,” says researcher Scott Dallimore


New maps released by the United Nations show climate change data specific to communities across Nunavut and Canada’s Arctic. (Screenshot: Coastal and Offshore Permafrost in a Changing Arctic)

By Mélanie Ritchot

Want to see how quickly Canada’s Arctic coastline is warming? There’s a map for that.

The United Nations Environment Programme recently released an expansive study that collates 70 years’ worth of data on the region. Instead of a dense report, it’s presented in interactive videos and maps.

“Someone living in Pond Inlet can actually go to Pond Inlet (on the map) and they can see how fast Pond Inlet is warming compared to other sites,” said Scott Dallimore, research scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada, and lead researcher on the study.

“You won’t find that anywhere else.”

Over the past 30 to 50 years, Arctic coastal areas have warmed two to four times faster than the rest of the world, on average, said Dallimore.

For example, Eureka, a research base on Nunavut’s Ellesmere Island, has warmed about 4 C, compared to the global average of 1 C over the same time period.


Pond Inlet warmed by about 2.5 C and Iqaluit warmed by about 2 C .

The study, which was released on Oct. 13, notes these findings align with observations by Arctic peoples who have noticed later freeze-up of the land and ocean and earlier breakup of river, lake and sea ice.

The project includes a crowdsourced map for northerners to add their own observations.

People can also explore how Arctic coastlines have changed over the years.

More than 20 coastal communities in northwestern Canada and Alaska have been declared threatened by coastal erosion, according to the study. That’s because the coastline there is sandy and more prone to landslides and erosion.

The coastline study doesn’t focus on much of Nunavut, because the territory’s coastlines aren’t eroding and sea levels are dropping, said Dallimore.


“There’s actually more coastline being produced over time, not less,” he said.

Mercury a “looming issue”
The researchers also tracked permafrost melt. It’s believed to be a big driver of global warming because as the ice melts, greenhouse gasses that have been trapped in the Earth get released into the atmosphere.

It can also release heavy metals like mercury as it melts, which can enter the food chain.

“It’s a looming issue,” said Dallimore.

The researcher encouraged kids, university students and researchers to explore the maps and for northerners to contribute to the crowdsourced map themselves.

“There’s much more of a strong will to have northerners engaged at all levels of the science,” he said, adding that consulting Indigenous peoples in science needs to be more than asking permission to conduct a study, but to co-operate at all levels, and study what is important to them.

“This is a way to give northerners something that’s tangible, that they can explore on their own and learn from.”

The Coastal and Offshore Permafrost in a Changing Arctic was released about a month ago and was a collaboration between the United Nations Environment Programme, Environment Canada and GRID-Arendal, a program based in Norway.

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