Developing New Strategies for Coping with Weather: Work in Alaskan and Canadian Coastal Communities

Monday, 15 December 2014: 2:40 PM
David E Atkinson, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada
A changing climate is manifested at ground level through the day to day weather. For all Northern residents – community, industrial, operational and response – the need to think about the weather is ever present. Northern residents, and in particular, indigenous community residents, fully understand implications of the weather, however, a comment that has been heard more often is that old ways of knowing are not as reliable as they once were. Weather patterns seem less consistent and subject to more rapid fluctuations. Compromised traditional ways of knowing puts those who need to travel or hunt at greater risk. One response to adapt to this emerging reality is to make greater use of western sources of information, such as weather data and charts provided by NOAA's National Weather Service or Environment Canada. The federal weather agencies have very large and complex forecasting regions to cover, and so one problem is that it can be difficult to provide perfectly tailored forecasts, that cover all possible problems, right down to the very local scale in the communities. Only those affected have a complete feel for their own concerns. Thus, key to a strategy to improve the utility of available weather information is a linking of local-scale manifestations of problematic weather to the larger-scale weather patterns. This is done in two ways: by direct consultation with Northern residents, and by installation of equipment to measure parameters of interest to residents, which are not already being measured.

This talk will overview projects in coastal Alaska and Canada targeting this objective. The challenge of designing and conducting interviews, and then of harvesting relevant information, will be visited using examples from the three major contexts: coastal community, industrial, and operational. Examples of how local comments can be married to weather products will be presented.