Making money or preserving nature? – The Greenlanders’ opinion about oil industry

by Arto Heitto, Liine Heikkinen, Nina Sarnela, Otso Peräkylä, Yuqin Liu and Heikki Junninen

Currently fishing is the primary livelihood of Greenland. In order to achieve stronger economy Greenland is investigating the potential of new sources of income: oil drilling is one of the most prominent ones. Oil industry in the pristine Arctic environment easily provokes negative thoughts among people looking at it from a distance. But what are the feelings of people that would really be affected by it? This is what we wanted to find out when we made our way to Greenland’s national oil company, Nunaoil, for discussion and also conducted a small survey on the streets of Nuuk to find out opinions of citizens towards oil industry.

Treasure hunting in the Arctic sea

Nunaoil is a small company with five staff members. It participates in all oil exploration and exploitation licences in Greenland. This Greenland’s government-owned company has been working for over thirty years now but in addition to some test drillings, no oil has yet been drilled in Greenland nor has any decision about starting to do that been made. We went to meet Nunaoil’s legal advisor, Betina Præstiin, and  senior geologist, Signe Ulfelt Hede, to discuss Greenland’s prospects in oil industry and got warmly welcomed to the office of Nunaoil in the centre of Nuuk. In the interview their love of Greenland and strong need to strengthen its economy came across.

Currently there are 17 active exploration licences in five different sites in Greenland, Annual Report 2015, Nunaoil AS
Currently there are 17 active exploration licences in five different sites in Greenland, Annual Report 2015, Nunaoil AS

Betina and Signe see the oil exploration as a treasure hunt – large discovery of oil could really make a difference for Greenland. Oil industry was seen as a mean to achieve the needed economic growth and the possible risks that could come along with it were thought to be under control due to the liability contracts under which all the oil companies are working. Betina and Signe introduced us to the thought that Greenlanders don’t want their land to be just a national park where tourists can visit and send a postcard from, but instead they want it to be more independent, well functioning state. The discussion gave us a lot of new information but left us wondering what is the public opinion in Greenland towards the oil industry.

Arctic summer school students Nina Sarnela, Liine Heikkinen, Yuqin Liu, Arto Heitto and Otso Peräkylä discussing about the potential of oil industry in Greenland with a senor geologist Signe Ulfelt Hede and legal advisor Betina Præstiin (fourth and fifth from the right) from Nunaoil in Nuuk.


Finding the public opinion in Nuuk

So to get some insight about the public opinion, we then scattered to the streets of Nuuk to make a quick survey about the people’s attitudes towards the oil industry in Greenland. We asked a total of 28 people how they felt about starting oil industry in Greenland and got 27 answers, both for and against the idea. Unfortunately, due to our shortage in language skills, we were mainly restricted to interviewees that spoke English, but still we felt that we got quite good overview of public opinions.  We were a bit surprised to find out that the majority of the people we met didn’t have any strong opinions about the issue. This is actually quite understandable since even though the explorations have been done for years, no decision about starting the oil industry has been done, so the topic is not on top of people’s minds.

The outcome of our survey in the centre of Nuuk showed that the opinions were quite equally divided for and against oil industry in Greenland. We interviewed 28 people aged between 20 and 70 years who were living or have lived in Greenland and got 27 answers to our survey.

Getting a new perspective

When doing the survey we heard several thoughts and concerns of the citizens. The economic situation of Greenland was on people’s mind and many of the interviewees were in favour of oil industry because it’s possible contribution to economic growth. The concerns that rose in many discussions were the possible changes in society due to immigrants coming to work in Greenland and the environmental risks. Since the fishing industry is currently the main livelihood in Greenland, the possible conflicts with it were also worrying some of the citizens. In total the opinions were divided very equally between positive and negative feelings towards oil industry. We had a fun day discussing with many friendly Greenlanders and we learned totally new perspectives to the prospects of oil industry in Greenland from them. We can recommend this kind of exercise to all natural scientists – just go out and listen to the opinions and ideas of the public. We promise it will widen your perspective of things!

Diminishing sea ice cover affecting the climate

by Arto Heitto, Liine Heikkinen, Nina Sarnela, Otso Peräkylä, Yuqin Liu and Heikki Junninen

Arctic areas are warming fast due to global warming, and one of the most striking effects of this warming is the rapid shrinking of sea ice. Records for the lowest sea ice are being broken nearly annually. Just this spring we saw another record low winter sea ice extent (announcement from NASA). The diminishing sea ice cover has many effects. Probably the most well-known of these is related to ice being bright, but open sea being dark in colour. This means that sea ice reflects the majority of sunlight back to space, while open water absorbs most of it. So when ice cover decreases, more of the sunlight falling on arctic areas is absorbed, leading to warming of the surface (check this video: This warming in turn leads to more sea ice loss: this is a type of mechanism called a positive feedback. In such a mechanism, an initial change to a system (in this case warming of the Arctic), leads to accelerated, further changes (more warming as more radiation is absorbed by the surfaces).

However, changing brightness of the surface is not the only change caused by diminishing sea ice. On top of the change of brightness of the surface, there are also many other differences between water and ice covered surfaces. Ice acts as a lid between the water and the air. In ice covered regions, matter (like water vapour, carbon dioxide or other gases) cannot easily move from the water to the air and vice versa. We say that the exchange between the sea and the atmosphere is reduced. However, sea ice can provide different methods for transport of material to the atmosphere. For example, when sea ice is formed, pure water freezes first. This leaves miniature pockets of very salty water, or brine, still in liquid form. Different components of the sea water can then possibly escape to the atmosphere more easily from this concentrated solution.

So why would we be interested in the transport of stuff from the sea to the atmosphere? There are many reasons. Sea water is rich in all kinds of chemicals, which can have big impacts on the chemistry of the atmosphere, if they manage to escape the sea and get to the air. Examples of these kinds of compounds include sulfur containing compounds produced by different types of plankton, and sea salt itself. Roughly half of sea salt is composed of chloride ions. In their ionic, or electrically charged form, they are relatively harmless. However, in electrically neutral form, they become extremely reactive chemically. The same applies to other components of sea salt found in lesser quantities, including bromine and iodine. Though there is less of these compounds in the water, they are even more reactive than chlorine. Chlorine, bromine and iodine are all part of a group of compounds called halogens (see what others are planning to investigate: If they manage to get into the atmosphere, they can have big impacts on how pollutants are processed in the air. Additionally, they can in some conditions form new tiny solid or liquid droplets, so called aerosol particles. To get an idea of their size, a human hair is roughly 100 micrometres thick on average. The size of aerosol particles varies from 1 nanometre, a thousandth of a micrometer, to roughly 10 micrometres. So the smallest aerosol particles are only one hundred thousandth of the diameter of human hair, though the biggest ones are already close this size. So what do these aerosol particles do? They have many impacts, ranging from health effects to visibility. The most important in this context is their effect on climate. Through reflecting sunlight back to space, or making clouds brighter and longer lived, they can cool the climate.

But back to sea ice. So ice-covered and ice-free surfaces can differ in how well they allow chemicals to pass from the sea to the atmosphere. These chemicals can in turn lead to formation of aerosol particles that can cool the climate. Thus, when sea ice cover is reduced, it also affects this process of aerosol formation. In order to figure out how exactly the process is affected, we analyzed data measured in the Villum Research Station, Northeastern Greenland, located next to the Danish military station, Station Nord. We measured various parameters in the station, including halogens in their oxidized form, different sulfur-containing species, ozone, and aerosol particles of various sizes, among others. To figure out where these compounds came from, we compared the measured concentrations to where the air had come from.

One of our findings was that sea ice seemed to be a source of aerosol particles: the more time the air had spent over ice, the more aerosols it had. Also, it seemed that air passing over open water sometimes had higher concentrations of some halogens: this could mean that in the future we can get even more of those. In total, we found many potentially interesting links between sea ice and air chemistry in the Arctic. However, all of these require further study before reliable conclusions can be made about potential future impacts.

Location of the Villum Research Station in Station Nord in Northern Greenland
Location of the Villum Research Station in Station Nord in Northern Greenland
 Gas and aerosol particle measurements on going at Station Nord
Gas and aerosol particle measurements on going at Station Nord

Sea spray can trigger carbon dioxide release from water to the atmosphere

by Hakim Abdi, Laura Matkala, Lauriane Quéléver and Nandita Rajan

Fishermen have been following the wind and the waves for ages, but in atmospheric research this is a relatively new field of interest. Oceans are, however, a significant sink for sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). They can also release CO2 through different pathways.

Many people relate climate change and CO2 emissions to the burning of fossil fuels ( Some are aware that forests, and plants in general exchange CO2 with the atmosphere ( What is not perhaps often considered by the public is that waterbodies, such as seas can be sinks or sources of atmospheric CO2 too. This means that they can take up or release CO2 from and to the atmosphere. ( Our group worked on a dataset from Young Sound fjord, north-eastern Greenland ( with an attempt to figure out what could be the driving atmospheric factors behind the flux of CO2 from water in these types of fjord ecosystems and how climate change affects water sea exchanges.

CO2 flux among many other variables was measured in the tower (on the right-hand side of the picture) by the eddy covariance techniques ( It measures gas movements directly from the air. Before the ice melt the tower was standing on ice (the red dot on the left-hand side of the map) at about 2 km from the shore and after that on the coast near Daneborg.




Our flux data covered the time period from early June to late September 2014. A flux of gas tells you how much of the aforementioned gas moves through a unit area during a fixed period of time, in this case how much CO2 moves through an area of one square meter in one second. Since the ice melts quite late and the freezing starts rather early in Young Sound (, we were able to examine the CO2 flux in different ice conditions. As expected, we observed significantly more flux events when there was very small ice cover or in total absence of ice compared to the situation with full ice cover. Three very clear flux events stood out from the data. These events took place in early and late July and late August.

When a strong wind blows the seawater towards the shore, the water eventually hits the ground and causes the formation of tiny spray droplets of water. These droplets will rise just above the water surface and start releasing CO2 to the atmosphere. Basically they give away all the liquid to the surrounding air until there’s only salt left. This salt then returns to the water. However, this depends on the droplet’s residence time in the air. Some sea spray particles will fall back to the sea and not evaporate all water ( The weather was windy and the wind blowing from the direction of north-west or north during the flux events. The sea and the shoreline of the fjord are in these wind directions. The wind coming directly along the shoreline of the Young Sound fjord could accelerate sea spray droplet formation even more than the wind coming from the sea. The other variables we looked at also seemed to support the theory that sea spray is the main contribution on these CO2 fluxes events, but unfortunately things are not that simple.

Sea spray-mediated CO2 flux is a topic, which has been poorly studied so far and we were analyzing a limited amount of data. Additionally, to make things even more complicated, there are also two other pathways contributing to CO2 and other gas exchange between the sea surface and the atmosphere. In fact, the partial pressure difference of a gas between the sea and the atmosphere is considered as most important pathway. The third pathway one is called bubble-mediated exchange.

Air-sea exchange of gases. Modified from Andreas et al. 2016. The potential of sea spray droplets in facilitating air-sea gas transfer, IOP Conf. Series: Earth and Environmental Science 35 (2016) 012003.

In scientific research there are always matters that could be improved. Sometimes there’s not enough data, sometimes there’s too much data and people don’t know what to do with it. As this course was not only concentrating on natural sciences, we also faced the fact of having a limited amount of time for the data handling. It would also have been very useful to have marine data from the Young Sound Fjord. In general this still gave us, a group of four people who knew almost nothing about sea-air gas transfer before the course, a nice introduction to the topic.

The Fishermen´s Perspective in Nuuk, Greenland

by Nandita Rajan, Laura Matkala, Lauriane Quéléver, Lise-Lotte Sørensen & Pelle Tejsner

What does climate change mean to a fisherman in the Arctic region?

As part of a social science project, our group was assigned the challenging but interesting task of interviewing the local fishermen in order to understand their views on the current environmental situation that might have an impact on their daily lives.


A multidisciplinary approach

As another approach to our scientific research, we were also introduced to research methods in social science. Belonging to the field of natural science, we were not familiar with interview methods before this course.

Adaptation in the Arctic

Studies have shown some contrasting results related to the adaptability of the popullation toward climate change.Ford et al. (2015) states that Arctic communities are highly vulnerable with the ongoing magnitude of climate change, which implies a limited ability to adapt. On the other hand, social science assessments, mentionned in this same paper, have demonstrated that the communities have a significant adaptive capacity to unpredictable climate. The point is that indigenous populations perceive changes in climate more as a consequence of natural variability.


We hoped to learn from this experiment if the environmental changes asscociated with the 1.5°C warming (Ford et al., 2015) in Greenland have resulted in a change of the people´s lifestyle. Another question was to find out if these changes are seen as a challenges or opened doors to new opportunities (e.g. for the fishing industry).

Resource use systems, such as fishing, will provide indirect markers to changes in the environment and climate. For example a warmer period could lead to higher levels of nutrient cycling. This in turn can cause an increase in productivity in oceans , thus there will be more food available for fish. Additionally, it could result in the opening of new routes for fishing.

5th July 2016, Tuesday

As with every first experiment, we were not sure what to expect. We assumed it would be easy to find fishermen to interview in a town where fishing is one of the main occupations, but this was not the case. Nevertheless in Greenland, everyone as a word to say about fishing since the population is dependent on the natural ressources for living. Thus, we had a broad panel of informant:

  1. A young fish seller in the fishmarket
  2. An older fish seller on the street
  3. A former fisherman
  4. A employee from fishing company
  5. A fisheries controller

We did not raise the words climate change directly no avoid influencing our interviewees. However we wanted to listen their opinion about the current situation on fishieries, and if they experienced any kind of changes related to it.  Hence, our group decided to frame the interviews with the following core questions:

  • Why did you become a fisherman and for how long have you been fishing?
  • What is different/Is something different now compared to when you started?
  • What do you think about the future?

Conflicting view about regulation

A couple of informants spoke mainly about the regulations, policies and hygeine certifications that are now required by authorities regarding the fishing business. One was in favour of this whereas for another, it comes as a disruption to their traditional fishing ways. These contrasting views clearly show a difference the percepition of the fisheries and the society in Greenland.


Another point has been highlighted by the worker in the Fish industry where during the last five years the competion between the main companies is gradually increasing. This could also be linked with the quotas limitation fixed by the authorithies. As an additional concern, the small fishemen group tends to desapear toward the bigger corporation.

Fishing sector is doing well

If some species have suffered, others have thrived and the fishing industry has taken advantage of that. Presently, Shrimp shrimp and halibut are the main stocks in the market. Cod populations declined for over 30 years but the species is catching up again. With new technological advances, species like mackerel have entered the market.

Climate change a minor concern

In the wake of globalization, socio-cultural and economic issues, the problem of climate change seems to be overshadowed. After listening at what the locals had to say about their own concerns on the fisheries and oceans topic, we had the impression that the climate change is not the bigger concern in the population life. In Greenland, the locals are used to deal with the nature and its unpredictable change. Thus they see climate change as a natural variation of their environment where they will adapt in any case and probably faster than in the other parts of the world.

Happy Greenland!!

by Anna Nikandrova, Havu Pellikka, Ksenia Tabakova, Mary Butwin, Merete Bachmann and Meri Korhonen aka group Fem(me)

Retreating glaciers are changing the landscape of Greenland and raising sea levels globally. While this is bad news for coastal residents around the globe, a fisherman in Southern Greenland now has an amazing opportunity. With warmer waters the Mackerel has been introduced and, thus, the future of the fishermen looks bright.

Boats_blog_pictureAlmost every day we hear about how bad climate change is for the Earth and the population. Yet after speaking with locals in Nuuk and experiencing a small part of the Greenlandic culture, we got some other perspectives. In Greenland, a vast island almost wholly covered by the huge ice sheet, many of the residents view the climate change in a positive light.

We have found that some of the glaciers have moved incredibly fast and retreated greatly during the last 15 years. That is one of the best illustrations of the recent climatic changes in Greenland. We also spoke with Esben Ehlers and Per Roe from the Ministry of Fishery, Hunting and Agriculture to learn about the future of the fishing industry in this changing environment.

The front of Jakobshavn Isbræ, one of the main outlet glaciers of the Greenland ice sheet, has been retreating rapidly during the past two decades. The largest collapse happened in the early 2000s and was associated with rapid flow of the glacier. The velocities are monthly means from May each year based on satellite imagery. Note the red line is the 2000 glacier edge.
The front of Jakobshavn Isbræ, one of the main outlet glaciers of the Greenland ice sheet, has been retreating rapidly during the past two decades. The largest collapse happened in the early 2000s and was associated with rapid flow of the glacier. The velocities are monthly means from May each year based on satellite imagery. Note the red line is the 2000 glacier edge.

Per and Esben explained that Greenlandic people are very skilled at adapting, and change is something they are used to handling.

The Fishery department pointed out that the warmer temperatures have resulted in the introduction of the Mackerel  to Greenland which is a big opportunity for the industry which already covers 95% of the country´s export. Furthermore, the cod is moving further North and the Arctic cod  may be possible to fish industrially if the right marketing is used to promote the sales.

Climate change modifies our environment and familiar way of living, but in Greenland the people accept this change as a part of their life. Fishing will continue to be an important part of their culture and economy.

This experience was possible because of ABS Summer School about the Effects of Climate Change on Ecosystems and Societies 2016.

Modern ways to visually present scientific data: From mackerel maps to Whal-e

by Riikka Väänänen, Vilma Kangasaho, Stephany B. Mazon, Sofia Emmanouela Theodorou, Filippo Xausa

fig6v_1.jpgScientists love graphs and charts and read them as a second language, but the complicated pictures you find in scientific journals can look like gibberish for the general public. One of our group’s task during the #ArcticCourse was to find new ways to visualize climate and environmental data from Arctic. We brainstormed what kind of data would give new insights and how to present it in modern way. Here we tell about some of these ideas.

One inspiration for our work was the Carbon Tree, which is a tool to visualize the measurements of carbon exchange between atmosphere and a single pine, a typical tree in the boreal zone.  The Carbon Tree uses real-time measurements performed in Hyytiälä, southern Central-Finland. The result is a combination of an artist’s vision and hard science measurements. The core of the Carbon Tree is an interactive webpage for wide public, but the framework has been applied also to other platforms, such as school visits and exhibitions.

During the course, we have heard a lot about the societal and environmental changes that Greenland and Iceland have undergone. The area deserves special attention because climate change is forecasted to be enhanced in the Arctic, and a changing environment will affect directly the living conditions of both humans and nature.

At first, we tried to think what kind of information would be interesting and useful. Fishery is an important industry in both Iceland and Greenland. The lecture by Olafur S. Astthorsson from Marine Research Institute, Iceland, inspired us to think about an interactive map that would illustrate how the stocks of different fishes, fish catches, seawater temperature, and sea currents had changed during the past decades on the coasts of Iceland and Greenland.  For example, the mackerel is now the new hot fish to catch for Greenland. A map is an already familiar platform for general audience to read data. Interactive webpages could offer a possibility for the users to concentrate on the history of catching one fish species or find out how the warmer seawater had moved species to new living areas in general.

We also discussed other datasets that could be shown using interactive maps such as seawater temperature, sea ice extent, air temperature. However, most of these visualizations were already made and available by different scientific organizations.

In the world of various interests, getting attention to scientific results is not easy. We thought of ways not only to inform the audience, but also to include them in the exploring and understanding of the data. We discussed citizen science, such as the Zooniverse, which allows citizen to participate in data collection or initial data analysis. Gamification is a rising idea to apply elements from games to catch users. It makes the learning and progress visible. It could be applied for example to an interactive website.

One step further from gamification would be the actual games that use actual scientific data. The data could be from natural or social sciences. The data could be used either as a background material of the game, or for example the engine behind the game could use real physical models to simulate the environment in the game. Although nowadays the word ‘game’ brings usually to our minds mostly computer or mobile games, the platform could also be the traditional board game.

In addition, very simple ideas can get a huge attention, like was the case when WWF Finland installed a web-camera on the shore of a Lake, and people could check if a Saimaa ringed seal was just lying on a rock. In the Pigeon Patrol project some pigeons in the London city carried tiny backpacks with air pollution sensors. People could tweet to birds and get as a reply the current air pollution situation at their location. This gave us the last idea to bring science data from Arctic available to general audience. A whale would be equipped for example with some basic meteorological sensors. The whale, Whal-e as we started to call it, could also tweet or otherwise share its recent measurements if asked. However, we have not still figured out how whales could wear backpacks!

Greenland: Labor Union SIK

by Sofia Emmanouela Theodorou, Filippo Xausa, Stephany B. Mazon, Riikka Väänänen and Vilma Kangasaho

July 12, 2016

Greenland is an isolated place with very challenging conditions which pose a challenge to the survival of every human. The first humans arrived in Greenland in 4500BP, and since that a culture based on fishing and hunting was developed. Today, both activities are the main source of nourishment and income for the Greenlanders.

On the other hand, climate change impacts the humans societies How is a more rapid change in climate affecting the people in the Arctic? To find out we went to Nuuk the capital of Greenland and interviewed the advisor of the labor union SIK, Julie Rademacher.

SIK is the largest labor union in Greenland with circa 5000 members. The headquarters are in Nuuk, but local offices are spread all over Greenland. The main occupancies of Greenlanders are traditionally fishing and hunting accounting for 88%  of the export economy and due to recent discoveries mining has become a main source of income as well. SIK covers most of the workers in Greenland, national and international.

The description of the hunter as presented in in the National Museum of Greenland.

SIK has a strong voice in public debates. One of the future targets is to reach 10.000 members all over Greenland as well as to raise funding in order to establish an independent union able to organize stronger strikes.  International collaboration with other labor unions is ongoing. SIK ask for advices from other labor unions which are experts on the subject of interest. For instance, in the question whether or not the uranium should be extracted, the union sought advice from a Canadian labor union specialized in the uranium extractions. The fishing industry in Greenland does not offer stable working conditions; however it promises a high income. This creates a clash between traditional and modern labor market as workers tend to leave their daily work in order to go fishing when the fishes’ availability is increasing. Julie compared the Greenlandic fishing industry with the Icelandic. Icelanders were in the same position as Greenlanders today but they managed to grow their fishing industry making use of every possible part of the fish. For instance, the bones can be used to the production of calcium tablets. Julie gets inspiration from Iceland having it as a role model for a fishing society. In order for this to succeed, according to Julie, an educator of the labor needs to be hired and the framework of the industry needs to be also developed.

Tourism as a source of income was also discussed during the interview. Even though Greenland is an isolated area, many people would like to visit its wild beauty. “We prefer a maximum of 50.000 tourists per year”, Julie said. They consider a danger to their culture and society when a relatively large group of tourists reaches a relatively small village. They do not want to get influenced while in the same time they are building their identity as a nation and protecting their traditions and way of living.

What is the biggest challenge the union faces? “Geography”, Julie replies. Greenland is a big country with diversity in language. Every area uses different dialect and Greenlandic Kalaallisut became the official language of Greenland only in 2009. Continuing with the challenges, the second more important is the communication. In Greenland people prefer the mouth to mouth communication if one considers that 50% of the union’s members do not have access to the internet. Brochures distributed from the local offices to the workers raised the members by 500 in just one month.

Surviving past climate changes as presented in the National Museum of Greenland.

The interview closed with questions regarding the impact of climate change on the local people. Greenland is an isolated area and the inhabitants people have survived for more than 4500 years the harsh conditions of the environment. They succeeded it because they consider themselves as part of the nature and not apart from the nature. They always adapted to any climate change had occurred in the past. Moreover, past climate changes has contribute significantly to their evolution (see pic). Today Greenlanders do not consider climate change as a new threat, instead they see it as one more change which locals will adapt while in the same shape further their culture.

Mackerel is the new Cod. Original Nuukflix series.

by Ksenia Tabakova

Fathers of today’s Nuuk fishermen were able catch cod in their “home” waters. This fish now has moved to the northern Greenlandic waters, at least for the time being. Cod loves cold and will always love it, unlike me. They are just getting too exhausted if they swim in warm waters. Did you know that their heartbeat raises if the water temperature increases for couple of degrees? Cod wants to be in balance with the environment it lives in, therefore it just cannot help itself and starts to move much faster. What a sensitive creature, and I completely understand. If I would be forced to run all the time, I would for sure want to move very soon somewhere where I can maintain my peace and lie on a sofa with book in my hand.

I think I am more like mackerel, which prefers temperate climate. Looks like in Greenland surface water became “mackerel-friendly”, so this daring fish seizes opportunity to expand its sphere of influence (also known in science as habitat). For only four years mackerel’s share in Greenland’s export grew from solid zero percent till striking twenty three! Starting from 2014 mackerel not just drifts to Greenland from its birthplace, but completes its life cycle including spawning in the Greenlandic waters. Most probably mackerel is unaware how big influence it has on the local economy, but heads in Ministry of Fishing, Hunting and Agriculture are occupied with finding a compromise between old agreements on mackerel management and new reality where mackerel is everywhere and is here to stay. On paper, current fishing quota is factually overfishing. Now it is the job of the Ministry is to keep both biologists and fishermen happy about the catch numbers.

As to fishermen of Greenland, the prospects looks promising. We scientists are always worried about change, but for them all new is as natural as always. The bottom line is that they have families that they have to provide to, and catching mackerel is just what they need.

I have to admit, it was mind-opening to learn about the attitude of Inuit people towards environmental changes. I welcomed the fact that my way of thinking was challenged. Now I should think where I can find mackerel from Greenland to support local economy.

You can read more about mackerel appearance in Greenland here and even more here.

Inuit living by a forest? How will Greenland response to the climate change?

by Kaisa Figueiredo, Kaia Kask, Richard Lamprecht and Antti Manninen

Arctic areas of the globe are facing new challenges with the changing climate. The affects can be both positive and negative, and they can be seen in many different ways throughout the nature, culture and society itself.

Inuit are part of Greenland’s nature with their habits and life style. They have and had to adapt to the changes of nature reaching a compromise that serves their habits (hunting, fishing) and at the same time continues the knowledge of their ancestors. New knowledge is filtering in and going back to the life style of ancestors is one possible way for the society in the future.  The question is if the society in Greenland or any society elsewhere is willing to take a step back. On the other hand,  emphasizing Greenland´s indigenous culture and history builds the base of preserving and strengthening in future generations. In Greenland are no trees growing, but instead there are fjords that magically appear from the morning mist. What would happen to nature, society and the economy if trees would grow in Greenland? Somehow the Greenlandic “thing” would be lost in that way.

For Greenlandic people, especially for the indigenous Inuit that live on hunting and fishing, the warming climate has set up new problems in their daily life. Along with the melting ice and growing water flow from the glaciers, summer droughts have appeared making agriculture initiatives more difficult, even though rising temperature and greening of the environment would be favorable. Fishermen also find difficulties in seal hunting because of thinning of the ice – whether it is too thin for going on a sledge or by foot, or still too thick to go by boat. Polar bears are facing the same problem and approach villages, therefore causing danger to the people living there. The climate change has also many positive effects pointed out by the locals. Fisheries benefit from climate change through growing fish stocks. Warming climate also makes it easier to introduce new forms of agriculture, new plants crops and new types of cattle into the Greenlandic landscape.

How will the environment and the society respond to arctic greening? How will environmental changes affect and does the society need to start some actions to protect and preserve natural habitats? Who would benefit more from that and how is this connected to climate change? Which effect will appear when the plantation of trees (someday?) starts. Climate change leads to increased atmospheric temperature in the future, but the incoming radiation energy from the sun will stay stable. Does a warmer climate mean a greener Greenland? Limitations in soil processes, soil nutrients and hydrology will rise up. Those question will be answered by observations performed by future scientists.

Relating changes in the society, locals might be find the challenge dealing with their culture and cultural history. Finding their roots will help to fill the missing gaps that helps Greenlanders to identify themselves in the world. There are already some positive actions taking place, young people are getting interested to learn Greenlandic language and hopefully with that more indigenous knowledge rises up. So if the youngsters are now investigating in growing their roots, later they will be able to grow up high, just like trees. Locals should be more included in different investigations of various expertise concerning their future. Of course more work is needed or events that are focused on Greenland. The Inuit Circumpolar Council, led by council president Mads Fægteborg, is trying to do their best to develop this culture.

The most important factor in dealing with a greener Arctic for the society will be the adaptation to a changed environment and if the society will develop economically and in their lifestyle in a greener future Anyhow,  adaptions will and have to take place and society will evolve to different directions, nevertheless still maintaining its indigenous habits one way or another and finding new ways for implementation their everyday life.

Climate impact on Arctic societies in the past, present and future

by Soroush Majlesi, Maiju Kosunen and Ida Rosendahl
Reykjavik 13-07-2016

So, how do you combine a project containing an interview with the Greenland National Museum with analysis of Icelandic grassland CO2 chamber flux measurements? No problem, we have it all figured out.

We, 3 students from Finland, Iran and Denmark first met up in Nuuk and were thrown out into an interview at the museum. The context was climate change effects on Arctic societies. As natural scientists, we of course appreciate good field work and decided that a social science project should be no exception from this.

Dog sleighs from the museum exhibition. A mean of transportation developed for the unique Greenlandic climate conditions. Photo by Pavel Alexseychik.

So before the interview, we went to the museum, well equipped with cameras and notepads and walked through the exhibitions telling us the tale of the many cultural periods of the Greenlandic history. Not less than 18 times did we notice, that changing climate in some way affected the living conditions in Greenland. For instance, a warmer climate during the 1200s at the west coast caused the dog sleigh to disappear south of Kangerlussuaq. We arrived to the interview with museum inspector Manumina and deputy director Bo well prepared with questions. We learned a lot about the museum, but not what we had expected. It turned out that you have to be a skilled interviewer to keep the interview going in your desired direction. We learned that the museum is not just for tourists, but first of all serve an important function in a rapidly changing society: Preservation of cultural values and of the Greenlandic identity.


The Greenlandic national costumes, an important part of the Greenlandic identity used at festive events and holidays during the year.  Photo by Pavel Alexseychik.

After the 2nd World War, Greenland opened up to the outside world and modern equipment for hunting, fishing and household were introduced. The museum, which this year can celebrate its 50th anniversary, serves to preserve the traditional Greenlandic equipment which was rapidly outdated. Then we learned a lot about middens, not to be confused with mittens, which is a major archaeological focus for the museum, since soil properties are changing with changing climate and thus the conditions for midden preservation change too.
We also learned, that from a social perspective, the future looks bright for the Arctic societies: They know how to hunt, fish and live in various weather conditions and have no problems adapting to a changing climate. So maybe hunting in the dog sleigh disappears in southern areas, but it is replaced by for instance fisheries in boats. The future of the Arctic societies from a social perspective does look bright. So how does it look from a natural science perspective? To answer this, we went to Iceland. Here we worked with Icelandic CO2 chamber flux data from a very unique grassland site. It is located at a geothermally active site, thus allowing for experiments covering a wide range of soil temperatures.


Geothermal activity is very visible close to the measurement site in Iceland. Photo by Maiju.

To keep the explanation simple, we looked at data describing the carbon loss from the soil. The ecosystem carbon and nutrient cycling is important for the soil productivity and thus affects the possibilities for plant growth. By analyzing the data, we can see that up to a 4˚C increase in soil temperature will not have a negative impact on the soil carbon content. But it will increase the soil respiration and biomass growth, indicating a higher rate of nutrient cycling. This means that the soil is more productive and suitable for growth of plants with a higher demand for nutrients.

The Icelandic geothermally active CO2 flux measurement site. Photo by Maiju.

So now you may ask yourself; will global warming have a positive or negative effect on an arctic system such as Iceland or Greenland in terms of plant growth?  Well, the answer depends on your point of view. On one hand, the change in soil properties towards a more nutrient rich soil, will mean that some of the hardy Arctic plant species will be outcompeted, and thus biodiversity is lost. We generally do not like that. On the other hand, this nutrient rich soil will make the grasslands more productive and thus allow for more efficient agricultural use of the Arctic soils to benefit the societies. That, we like a lot. It must be up to the reader to decide, whether this change is good or bad. But from the perspective of society development in response to climate change, we must conclude that the future may look brighter than what you might expect before reading this blog post.