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Global warming hits Canada's remotest Arctic lands

Written by: Staff

RESOLUTE BAY, Nunavut, Apr 21 (Reuters) Even in one of the remotest, coldest and most inhospitable parts of Canada's High Arctic, you cannot escape the signs of global warming.

Polar bears hang around on land longer than they used to, waiting for ice to freeze. The eternal night which blankets the region for three months is less dark, thanks to warmer air reflecting more sunlight from the south. Animal species that the local Inuit aboriginal population had never heard of are now appearing.

''Last year, someone saw a mosquito,'' said a bemused Paul Attagootak, a hunter living in the hamlet of Resolute Bay some 3,400 km northwest of Ottawa and 893 km north of the Arctic Circle.

''Things getting warmer is not good for the animals, which are our food. We still eat them. We worry about them,'' he told Reuters as temperatures hovered around minus 18 degrees Celsius well above the seasonal average.

The entire life of the Inuit -- formerly called Eskimos -- is based on the cold. A rapid increase in temperatures could be cataclysmic as prey disappears and ice becomes treacherous.

PERMAFROST CRUMBLES In recent years there have been drastic signs of climate change in the southern part of Canada's Arctic, where melting ice in Hudson Bay threatens the survival of local polar bears.

Buildings in the port town of Tuktoyaktuk -- on the Arctic Ocean, close to Canada's northern border with Alaska -- are crumbling into the sea as the permafrost dissolves. Remote aboriginal communities are in distress because winter ice roads, needed to truck in supplies, are turning to water.

And now there are signs of change in Resolute Bay, where 250 people live in Canada's second-most northerly town.

''The most striking thing is that the wind doesn't bite any more. It used to take pieces of skin off you,'' said Wayne Davidson, who runs the local weather monitoring station and has lived in Resolute Bay since 1985.

''The weather here was brutal, probably the coldest, meanest toughest cold weather you could find,'' he said. But, he said, there have been enormous changes in the temperature. The mean temperature in March was minus 25.2 degrees Celsius compared with the average of minus 31.2 degrees Celsius from 1947 to 1991.

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