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[greenyes] Climate Disruption - Impact on the Arctic


Feeling the heat in the land of ice
As temperatures rise, a frozen Arctic world finds itself on shakier ground.
By Tom Avril
Inquirer Staff Writer

IQALUIT, Canada - When Kowmagiak Mitsima went ice fishing in April here in
the Canadian Arctic, his igloo started to melt after one night, rather than
the four nights he remembers as typical a decade ago.
Two springs ago, hunter friends lost their snowmobile when it fell through
the ice.
And some Inuits are now wary of venturing to the floe edge - where ice gives
way to open water - in late spring, giving them less time to hunt the polar
bears and seals that have sustained their culture for generations.
"The ice is softer," said Mitsima, 50.
The Arctic provides a front-row seat for the phenomenon of global warming,
as temperatures here have been rising almost twice as fast as in the rest of
the world. Wildlife, native traditions, and the very foundations of
buildings are at risk, experts said at an April conference here on Canada's
snowy Baffin Island, 600 miles above the tree line.
Higher temperatures are also changing the lives of people and animals in
more temperate climes, a trend most climate scientists attribute - at least
partly - to pollution from heat-trapping "greenhouse" gases.
Birds and plants are heralding the arrival of spring days and even weeks
earlier than they once did, from pink azaleas in Washington to eastern
bluebirds in Michigan. Last month, Stanford University researchers reported
a statistical link between these shifts and human impacts on climate.
Man-made pollution also has been cited as a factor in everything from rising
ocean levels at the Jersey Shore to the decline in U.S. maple-syrup
But the change is especially dramatic here in the land of ice and snow.
Average Arctic temperatures have increased by about 2 degrees Fahrenheit in
the last century, with most of the increase coming in the last four decades,
according to a major report on Arctic climate released in the fall. Data in
some areas are spotty, but the change is more than twice as great in the
western Arctic, including Alaska.
In the next century, the report said, average temperatures here are expected
to increase by 9 to 13 degrees Fahrenheit - twice as fast as in the world at
large. Polar bears, according to the gloomiest predictions, could become
extinct by 2100, because each year their hunting grounds - the ice - are
melting sooner.

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