Sunday, April 18, 2010

Hard scientific weather data meets traditional Inuit knowledge

Terri Hansen in Indian Country Today: For the last 15 years, the Inuit have reported that Arctic weather has been less stable and more unpredictable. Now, scientists are listening. As they have for generations, Inuit hunters across the Canadian Arctic and beyond begin their day judging the weather using precise, descriptive language, careful observation and continual refining and practice. Their decisions can spell the difference between life and death.

Now, their traditional atmospheric knowledge is helping to answer questions on changes in weather patterns, according to a new study accepted for publication in the journal Global Environmental Change. The study integrates Inuit weather interpretations based on wind direction and speed, cloud formations, animal behaviors, the stars, sun and moon, with scientific evidence obtained from ice cores, weather satellites and computer models.

…To reconcile differences between what Inuit were saying about their weather and what scientists were recording, Weatherhead looked at the data collected by her co-author and University of Colorado colleague anthropologist Shari Gearheard, who while living with the Inuit in Canada paid close attention to their descriptions of weather irregularities and time scales.

Weatherhead examined the weather in two Nunavut communities for short-term, day-to-day variability during June’s spring weather, the month the Inuit said had the greatest unpredictability. “I realized the indigenous people were right, the weather is getting more unpredictable in their area.”

…Weatherhead said the study is important because it takes seriously people who are in touch with the earth. “Indigenous knowledge can help us understand what changes are taking place, and help identify which critical issues are most important. They can help us decide what our best path forward is.”…

Two young Inuit mothers wearing amautit (women parkas with hood) (Nunavut Territory, Canada), photo by Ansgar Walk, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative CommonsAttribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license


Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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