This story was originally published by Undark and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
Ten years ago, the 1,200 residents of the tiny, mostly Inuit village of Nain, in Canada’s far northeast, lived through a natural disaster unnoticed by most of the world. From January to March, the average temperature — typically in the low single digits Fahrenheit — hovered well over 10 degrees above normal. What little sea ice formed was thin, cracked, and pockmarked with open patches. Hunting became risky or impossible, food supplies ran low, and a community survey found that one in 12 ice travelers suffered accidents that year. That spring, at least one person drowned when their snowmobiles plunged through weak ice.
Ice travel has never been risk-free, and for centuries Inuit have relied on traditional trails and time-tested knowledge for mitigating risk — paying attention to ice’s color, texture, or the resistance it offers a sharp blow with a harpoon. But 2010 was different. “That year was so extreme and impacted people so clearly,” said Robert Way, a climatologist of Inuit heritage at Canada’s Queen’s University. “There was a terrible sense of loss ... Read more