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Esa Qillaq (right) and Jayko Ashevak towing our heavy equipment up to the site of our first weather station, Akuliaqattak, north of Clyde River. I

t’s early May in Kangiqtugaapik, or Clyde River, Nunavut. Looking out the window of Shari Gearheard’s house, I see blue sky overhead. At ground level, however, the distant houses are hard to see in the blowing snow. A pennant flying from the neighbour’s roof is standing straight out for the third day in a row. Somehow this is fitting, as we are here to study the weather. Inuit have noted many changes in weather over the past few decades. Among

other things, they report that the weather is harder to predict than it used to be. This complaint echoes observations I’ve heard from Alaska (where I live), Canada’s western Arctic, Nunavut, Greenland, Scandinavia, and Russia. Something is undoubtedly going on. What that means specifically is harder to pin down. Shari and I work with two

meteorologists to compare Inuit observations of winds with data from the weather station at the Clyde River airport. The two records do not really agree, with Inuit reporting various changes that are largely undetectable from the wind instruments. We decide to probe deeper, enlisting the help of Glen Liston and Kelly Elder, scientists from Fort Collins, Colorado, who have looked at weather and snow throughout the world. Together, we secure a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation to try to connect Inuit observations with weather instruments and models. At the centre of the project are the Inuit with whom we are working. Esa Qillaq, Joelie

Sanguya, Jayko Ashevak, Ilkoo Angutikjuak, and Laimikie Palluq are among those whose observations started the study. They christened our project team Silalirijiit, “those who study or care about weather.” Our basic idea is that the weather varies greatly over the landscape surrounding Clyde

River. The mountains, fjords, and sea all help shape patterns of temperature, wind, and snowfall. While Inuit travel and hunt all across the area, the weather station at the airport captures only one location. So we need to get more data, which means building and maintaining remote weather stations. And we need to better understand how Inuit see the weather. For example, is it wind that really matters, or the blowing snow that makes it hard to see?

July/August 2011 above & beyond 37

Kelly Elder (left) and Esa Qillaq (right) are delighted to see that the maintenance work at the Ailaktalik station (south of Clyde River) is successful, with the data showing up correctly on the laptop screen.

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