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CR 38:137-154 (2009)  -  DOI:

Sea ice, climate change, and community vulnerability in northern Foxe Basin, Canada

J. D. Ford1,*, W. A. Gough2, G. J. Laidler3, J. MacDonald4, C. Irngaut4, K. Qrunnut4

1Department of Geography, McGill University, 805 Sherbrooke St. West, Montreal, Quebec H3A 2K6, Canada
2Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences, University of Toronto at Scarborough,1265 Military Trail, Scarborough, Ontario M1C 1A4, Canada
3Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, B349 Loeb Building, Ottawa, Ontario K1S 5B6, Canada
4Hamlet of Igloolik, Nunavut X0A 0L0, Canada

ABSTRACT: The Arctic is undergoing rapid climatic and environmental change, most notably in the spatial extent and thickness of the sea ice. Inuit communities in the Canadian Arctic are directly affected by these changes, with dramatic change in sea ice conditions documented in recent years. We use a case study from the Inuit community of Igloolik to examine the processes and conditions shaping human vulnerability to sea ice change. In 2006, the ocean froze 3 to 4 wk later than normal, with little remnant ice during the summer. Igloolik residents described this state of sea ice as anomalous, and Inuit observations were consistent with instrumental sea-ice data. We examined how community members experienced and responded to the anomalous ice conditions of 2006, using our analysis of this perceptual/behavioral data as a lens for exploring vulnerability and its determinants. Inuit observations shed light on the implications of such ice conditions for human use of this arctic environment, including reduced ability to procure traditional food. Effects on the community were exacerbated by other climate-related conditions and non-climatic stresses, including increasing fuel prices and longer-term socio-cultural trends. The case study also indicates significant adaptive capacity: anomalous ice years are increasingly becoming the norm and there is evidence that social learning and responsive local institutions are reducing the physical risks of using the ice in a changing climate. Climatic extremes documented in 2006 are projected to be the new mid-century norm as a result of anthropogenic climate change. The case study therefore offers a baseline for examining potential future vulnerabilities.

KEY WORDS: Climate change · Vulnerability · Adaptation · Climate hazards · Inuit · Igloolik · Nunavut · Sea ice · Retrospective analysis · Mixed methods

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Cite this article as: Ford JD, Gough WA, Laidler GJ, MacDonald J, Irngaut C, Qrunnut K (2009) Sea ice, climate change, and community vulnerability in northern Foxe Basin, Canada. Clim Res 38:137-154.

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