ICE: Inuit Climate Experiment

Lead Research Organisation: Scottish Association For Marine Science
Department Name: Scottish Association For Marine Science


SUMMARY: The background for this proposal originates from scientific fieldwork performed by the proposer on the sea ice around the Qaanaaq region (NW Greenland) in the spring of 2008. The aim of this climate-change driven field programme was to evaluate the local sea ice thickness. Because no satellite technology is presently available to do this remotely we hired local hunters to take us out on their sledges to measure and document the sea ice thickness in different regions. During our time with the Inuit hunters we learnt of the severe difficulties that the local communities face because of the climate driven changes to sea ice conditions. As the fieldwork progressed it soon became apparent that it should be possible for scientists and the indigenous population to work together for the mutual benefit of each community. Climate change has immediate implications for the sustainability of many northern indigenous communities, their economies, health and well-being. In many ways sea ice can be viewed as the glue that binds these northern communities together because it is utilised both for commercial (hunting/fishing) and social (transport network) means. However the sea ice is changing; it is melting earlier and forming later and as a result it is becoming thinner and less stable. These dramatic changes influence global climate as well as the safety of people on the ice, but also the hunting ability of the Inuit, thus threatening the cultural survival of these people. For many years these communities have been highlighting these changes to the world community. However their evidence is generally empirical in nature, i.e. knowledge gained through personal observations, and therefore it is difficult to assimilate by the world scientific community. This can be overcome by the novel adaptation of a scientific instrument that is commonly used to measure ice thickness, the EM31-SH. By combining this instrumentation on their sledges these communities are able to obtain scientifically valuable data on sea ice thickness whenever they travel across the ice. These data will be automatically transmitted, via satellite, back to SAMS where it will be available in near real time on the project website. A similar system, the ferrybox, has revolutionised the collection of oceanographic data via commercial vessels, we envisage a similar revolution. By combining knowledge and innovation with traditional know-how the collection of scientific data on ice thickness can be achieved on scales, both spatial and temporal, that have not been logistically possible before. Access to these data in near-real time will enhance the safety of all persons travelling in sea ice covered areas and thereby laying the foundation for the long-term sustainability of these communities by bringing about positive economic, social and ecological benefits to all. The benefit to the scientific community can not be measured by monetary means as the continuous collection of ice thickness data, day-in and day-out, would not be possible by any other means. As a result his time series will be eagerly anticipated by both the observational and modelling scientific community. Our proposal empowers the local communities to take a lead in the climate change debate by obtaining scientifically valuable data that is urgently needed by scientists and policy makers on a truly global scale. By developing the local capacity to gathering scientific data for climate change studies we provides an additional forum for the community to highlight to the world the changes that are occurring in their region through scientific measurements. At present the Inuit are very much shut out of the scientific debate regarding climate change.


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Description Greenlandic hunters are experiencing first hand the recent climate-driven changes that are happening in the Arctic. These changes will influence not only the safety of the people travelling on the ice, but also their ability to hunt. Sea-ice changes have immediate implications for the sustainability, economy, health and well-being of many northern indigenous communities. In many ways the sea ice is the glue that binds these communities together; it influences all aspects of their daily life. The sea ice can be seen as the highways of the north, and the Inuit travel on these highways with dog-sled or skidoo in the same way as we use cars to commute. By incorporating scientific sensors onto the sleds themselves the Inuit hunters could continuously collect valuable data throughout the sea-ice growth and melt seasons, rather than just over the few weeks of our campaign.
By developing the local capacity to gathering scientific data for climate change studies an additional forum is provided for the community to highlight to the world the changes that are occurring in their region through scientific measurements. Proposals are now being written to ensure the long-term viability of these sensors and to expand their use to all parts of the Inuit Arctic.
Exploitation Route We were one of the first community involvement projects for the Arctic region. These are thankfully now becoming more common.
Sectors Education,Electronics,Environment,Other

Description The aim of our campaign was to mount an autonomous ice thickness system on the Inuit sleds and evaluate the accuracy of a system to determine ice thickness as well as obtain ice thickness data over a wide area. This type of data is urgently needed by scientists and policy makers in order understand climate change and to mitigate its impact. Almost 150 individual ice thickness measurements were obtained by drilling holes through the sea ice. These measurements were compared to the sensor mounted on the sled and results revealed that sled- mounted system determined the sea ice thicknesses to within few centimetres of the drilling results. Furthermore, the hunters obtained almost 200 km of thickness data in only two days, corresponding to around 20,000 ice thickness measurements. Crucially we were able to attain comprehensive feedback from the hunters about where and how a system should be mounted on a sled, what modifications were needed to ensure the instrument can endure rigorous daily use, and most importantly how they would use the data. This work has lead to a number of successful bid and similar work programmes.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Education,Electronics,Environment,Other
Impact Types Cultural,Societal