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It's A Different Arctic
Than 20 Years Ago

Permafrost temperatures hit a record high in 2012. Once a popular picnic spot near Pond Inlet, NU, this permafrost has thawed and eroded away.

Nowhere Is Climate Change Being Felt More Rapidly Or Severely Than In The Arctic

Thirty years ago we said, “If the Arctic climate changes…”

Fifteen years ago we said, “When the Arctic climate changes…”

Five years ago we said, “As the Arctic climate changes…”

Today we say, “The Arctic climate has changed and continues to do so faster than we ever expected.”

Here Are Just Some Of The Changes
That Have Already Occurred:

  • Since the 1960s the surface air over land in the Arctic has increased in temperature by 5 C—twice the global average.
  • We are losing September sea ice at a rate of 86,000 square kilometers per year (the size of Ireland), or 13.3 per cent per decade.
  • The loss of summertime sea ice is resulting in hazardous winds, waves and surges. Severe weather events in the Arctic are increasing in both frequency and severity.
  • There is no more Arctic sea ice over nine years old.
  • The percent of sea ice older than five years has shrunk to three per cent from an average (1979-2000) of 57 per cent.
  • Arctic waters have become more acidic.
  • Some ocean currents that used to flow predictably in one direction now regularly reverse direction, contributing to greater sea ice loss.
  • Bugs, new bird species, grizzly bears, new fish and pathogens are all appearing in the Arctic.
  • It has become harder to use traditional knowledge for hunting and traveling because of melting permafrost, reduced sea ice cover and unpredictable weather patterns.
  • Since 1967, June snow cover extent across the Arctic has dropped by 46 per cent as snow melts earlier in the spring.

Average Monthly Arctic Sea Ice Extent
September 1979 - 2016

 September average 1979-2016 graph.jpg

Arctic sea ice reaches its lowest extent of the year in September. On average, the extent of sea ice in the summer is declining by over 13 per cent per decade. In 2012, the extent of summer sea ice had decreased to half of what it was in the 1980s.

Is It Hopeless?

It certainly is not! Everything helps: you can drive less, use less energy and be conscious of how your daily actions impact our planet. But it will also take significant corporate and political will to slow these changes. Real change requires bigger efforts—the kind governments and big business can bring about. But you can have a real impact there. Get informed about your politicians’ views and opinions about issues that matter to you and vote accordingly.

You can vote with your wallet, too. Learn about the practices of the companies you support through your purchasing power and pressure them with your voice and your wallet to make changes that result in smaller impacts on our planet. Look for corporate environmental management plans, waste-conscious packaging, and products that take fewer resources to produce. Let the politicians and businesses know you appreciate their efforts to create positive change and support them with your vote and your dollar.

Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ)

“The ocean is changing from a long time ago. I don’t know anything about myself anymore, where I’m going by the ice. The ice has never been like that long ago. Some of it is always open now.”  

--Saul Qirngnirq, Gjoa Haven, NU

No one knows the changes occurring in the Arctic better than those who live there. Inuit have been maintaining a wealth of knowledge about the Arctic environment for millennia. Rooted strongly in Inuit culture, Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ) is the body of Inuit knowledge about the environment, people, wildlife and societal values, often referred to as traditional knowledge. According to the 2011 report Upagiaqtavut (Setting the Course), Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation in Nunavut, these are some recurring themes with respect to Inuit knowledge of climate change:

  • Sea ice conditions have changed; the ice is thinner, freezes up later and melts earlier.
  • Permanent snow patches are decreasing in size. There is more rain, and the snow and ice form later in the year and melt earlier.
  • The weather is unpredictable; it changes faster than it used to with storms blowing up unexpectedly.
  • Water levels have gone down, making it hard or impossible to travel by boat in certain areas.
  • Temperatures are warmer throughout the year.
  • New species have been observed.
  • The land has been observed to be drier and the stability of the permafrost is changing.
  • The length and timing of the traditional Inuit seasons have changed.

Sources & Recommended Reading

Arctic Report Card:

The Arctic in the Anthropocene: Emerging Research Questions (2014):

National Snow and Ice Data Center:

International Polar Year Science Report: Highlights:

Upagiaqtavut Setting the Course, Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation in Nunavut:

Arctic Ocean Acidification 2013, an Overview:


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