Arctic Thunderstorms: New Signs of Warming

ByABC News

O T T A W A, Nov. 15, 2000 -- The native people of the Canadian Arctic areseeing something unknown in their oral history — thunder andlightning.

Electric storms in the upper Arctic are among the evidence ofclimate change being reported in a new study by the InternationalInstitute for Sustainable Development, based in Winnipeg, Manitoba.The release of the study this week coincides with a U.N. conferenceon global warming being held in The Hague, Netherlands.

The study focuses on knowledge among Inuits of changes in theArctic environment. Researchers spent a year visiting Sachs Harbouron Banks Island in the Northwest Territories, accompanying Inuitpeople on their hunting and fishing trips and recording theirobservations.

Puzzled Animals

“When I was a child, I never heard thunder or saw lightning,but in the last few years we’ve had thunder and lightning,”Rosemarie Kuptana of Sachs Harbour, 1,440 miles north of Vancouver,said Tuesday. “The animals really don’t know what to do becausethey’ve never experienced this kind of phenomenon.”

The study lists various environmental changes, including meltingpermafrost and thinning ice. And some more subtle changes, such asthe appearance of robins and barn swallows that allegedly weren’tpreviously seen so far north.

Because the Inuit — also known to some people as Eskimos — spendtheir lives hunting and trapping outdoor, they perceive smallchanges in the environment, scientist Graham Ashford said.

“They’re telling us very clearly, it wasn’t like this before,and they give examples of how they know that it’s different,” hesaid.

Ashford urged the Canadian government to take a lead role innegotiating an agreement to decrease greenhouse gas emissions atthe talks taking place in the Netherlands.

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