A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘arctic canada

[LINK] Three notes about the problems of life in the Canadian North

leave a comment »

  • CBC noted how poverty and climate change is leading to food shortages in the north of Labrador.
  • Also from Labrador, CBC noted the negative effect of climate change on the mental health of indigenous peoples.
  • The whole Inuit lifestyle, CBC notes, is being undermined by climate change.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 3, 2017 at 4:30 pm

[LINK] “Get ready for a Canadian Arctic research boom”

Meagan Campbell of MacLean’s examines how the Canadian Arctic is on the verge of a boom in scientific exploration.

“The first moment, you don’t even believe it.” Jonathan O’Neil, a geologist at the University of Ottawa, is referring to his research team’s recent discovery of evidence that the oldest known life on Earth may, in fact, be embedded in rocks in Quebec’s far north. “You say, ‘That can’t be.’ So you reanalyze it, and you get the same result. You redo it again, again, again, and you come back with the same results, and you start to believe it.”

The breakthrough, which gained international attention when it was published in the journal Nature in early March, could be one of many discoveries soon to come from the Canadian Arctic. Opening this summer in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, is the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS), a Plexiglas, quarter-billion-dollar wonder of the northern world. Firs announced in 2007 under Stephen Harper, the station has so far attracted 200 research applicants from countries as far afield as Argentina, South Korea and Australia, all hoping to explore what lies beneath the tundra.

“They’re lining up at the door,” says David Scott, president of Polar Knowledge Canada, the government agency overseeing the project. “Growth chambers” for cultivating specimens, wet labs with cranes for lifting mammals, a dive centre for filling scuba tanks, triplexes for housing researchers—the station cost eight times more to erect than the Perimeter Institute, a science hub in Waterloo, Ont. One popular research area will be geology, as the Arctic holds rock formations rich with information about climate change and, in the case of the Hudson Bay area where O’Neil did his research, the history of life on Earth. O’Neil dated the fossils of ancient bacteria at 4.3 billion years old (although skeptics say they don’t look a day over three billion), suggesting that life existed before the planet had oxygen or oceans, and that life could just as easily have started in other barren parts of the universe.

Aside from prompting research, CHARS is a chance for Canada to stake its claim to the Arctic. The station is opening in a year when the Arctic Council, which negotiates land rights between eight Arctic countries, is looking for a new chair—the United States will step down in May after holding the position for two years. It also comes just before Canada submits a claim for the Arctic continental shelf in 2018 (competing with Russian and Danish claims). While the Canadian Forces have already boosted their presence with exercises in Nunavut including at Alert, the government will emphasize that “We the North” by opening the all-inclusive station for nerds.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 5, 2017 at 9:00 pm

[LINK] “Climate-driven Arctic permafrost collapse causing dramatic change”

Digital Journal’s Karen Graham reports on how the collapse of the permafrost in the Arctic North of Canada threatens further climate catastrophe.

hawing Arctic permafrost are slumping and disintegrating, sending rivers of carbon-rich mud and silt into waterways. This will lead to a climate-driven geomorphic transformation of our ecosystem.

A study published in February 2017, in the journal Geology, titled “Climate-driven thaw of permafrost-preserved glacial landscapes, northwestern Canada,” describes the research efforts and findings made by scientists with the Northwest Territories Geological Survey in assessing the increasing intensity of permafrost collapse in the Arctic regions of Canada.

Many readers may remember the July 2015 collapse of a small, unnamed lake in the NWT, documented with a remote camera that showed it falling off a cliff and breaking through a melting earthen rampart.

Thawing permafrost has already caused noticeable changes in the landscape in some Arctic regions and scientists have been tracking temperature changes and thawing of the permafrost for years. When permafrost thaws, large thaw slumps develop, some of them impacting over 30 hectares (74 acres) in area. This can dramatically alter slopes and impact downstream environments.

In 2015, Steve Kokelj of the NWT Geological Survey told the Canadian Press the thaw slumps were getting bigger and more numerous with the increase in temperatures and rainfall. At that time, Kokelj estimated the land affected by slumping had almost doubled in the last 30 to 40 years.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 1, 2017 at 9:00 pm

[LINK] “Inuit seek to fix language split, to forge common identity with Roman alphabet”

The Toronto Star‘s Allan Woods describes how Canadian Inuit are moving towards a common writing system, one that involves dropping the syllabary.

For Canadian Inuit leaders, creating a unified written language system out of 12 dialects and two existing writing systems, one word is proving more important than the rest.

“Asijjiiniaqtut” — roughly translated as “give and take.”

That’s because everyone is having to compromise in order to progress toward an agreed-upon code that can be conveyed by someone in the western Arctic village of Tuktoyaktuk and understood in Clyde River on the eastern coast of Baffin Island, or written in the northernmost Nunavut village, Grise Fiord, and read in the Quebec community of Kuujjuaq.

[. . .]

Christian missionaries arrived long ago in the eastern Arctic with a system of syllabic writing — the Inuit script we still use today, using triangles, humps, dots and squiggly lines — while a Roman writing system took hold in the western Arctic. About a century later, the federal government tried and failed to institute a single system based on the Roman alphabet.

In the ensuing years there were attempts to standardize the two systems, but they were adopted by some and resisted by others. Advocates of a unified system say the status quo hinders communication between far-flung communities, affects the quality of the education system and limits Inuit access to jobs.

“Inuit have always functioned as one, but because of the government system invisible borders have divided us,” said Jeannie Arreak-Kullualik, a member of the Atausiq Inuktut Titirausiq task force that is consulting on the changes.

“We’re trying to unify so that we can eliminate those barriers because we all have the same challenges, which is to keep our language and culture alive and get more education for our children.”

Written by Randy McDonald

December 20, 2016 at 5:00 pm

[LINK] “Food in North often expired — even at high prices and with subsidy, good food is hard to find”

The National Post carries Bob Weber’s article in The Canadian Press describing how a Canadian government program intended to make healthy food more affordable in the North has not worked at all.

A researcher has found that a federal subsidy intended to reduce astronomical food prices for northern families has resulted in stale-dated, unreliable food on store shelves without making grocery bills more affordable.

Tracey Galloway of the University of Toronto, whose findings are to be published in a scientific journal later this month, says the Nutrition North program should be reformed with mandatory price caps on essential food.

“Without price caps and regulatory framework for pricing, the retailers have arbitrary control on how they set prices,” she said from Iqaluit, where she was presenting her results. “We have not seen prices come down over the course of this subsidy.”

Food in the North costs between two and three times what it does in the south. Grapes were recently selling in Nunavut for more than $28 a kilogram.

[. . .]

Nutrition North is a $77-million program that, since it replaced the Food Mail initiative in 2011, has sought to reduce costs by subsidizing shipping to 121 communities in the three territories and the northern regions of the provinces. The federal government is reviewing the program and has held public meetings across the North.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 7, 2016 at 10:00 pm

Posted in Canada, Economics

Tagged with , , ,

[LINK] “Killer whales eating their way farther into Manitoba”

CBC News reports on changing mammal populations in Hudson’s Bay, with killer whales potentially displacing not just polar bears but belugas, too.

The food chain in Hudson Bay is drastically changing as killer whales take advantage of less sea ice and eat their way into Manitoba, a researcher in Arctic mammal populations says.

Steven Ferguson, a researcher with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the University of Manitoba, will be presenting his findings in Winnipeg this week at ArcticNet 2016, the largest single gathering of scientists focused on the rapidly changing Arctic.

“We are seeing a lot more killer whale activity in Hudson Bay and they are a top predator. They are really a magnificent, interesting predator — highly efficient,” Ferguson said.

Killer whales are not a fan of sea ice because it bothers their dorsal fins. However, sea ice is melting earlier and forming later each year.

Ferguson said that means killer whales are spending more time farther into Hudson Bay and “they are there to eat.”

Written by Randy McDonald

December 5, 2016 at 9:00 pm

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • blogTO praises the food court of Village by the Grange.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly talks about the importance of self-care in times of stress.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes that KIC 8462852 does seem to have faded throughout the Kepler mission.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that Planet Nine may be especially faint in the infrared and looks at the challenges mapping polar regions on Titan.
  • Imageo notes how melting of the ice cap continues in the Arctic Ocean.
  • Language Hat reports on a new script for the Fulani language.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that people who blame identity politics for the victory of Trump were not exactly non-supporters of the main.
  • Marginal Revolution considers the consequences of bribing the American president.
  • The NYRB Daily shares Charles Simic’s deep concerns for the future of the United States.
  • Jim Belshaw’s Personal Reflections discusses Australia as a target for immigration and calls for honesty in discussions on migration.
  • Peter Rukavina reports on the visit of then-Princess Elizabeth and her husband 65 years ago.
  • Whatever’s John Scalzi makes the fair point that he can hardly be expected to know what his Trump-era novels will be like.
  • Window on Eurasia compares Russia’s happiness with Trump’s election to its elation over Obama’s in 2008, and looks at how Russia is facing decline on a lot of fronts.