But Mead Treadwell, chairman of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, said the new work is another piece of evidence that justifies the attention to indigenous knowledge that has been overlooked and sometimes dismissed by mainstream science.
That's one reason his commission has urged measures ranging from preserving indigenous languages of the Arctic to encouraging scientists and native peoples to collaborate on scientific research.
"If you lose the language that people have been speaking for 10,000 years as it has evolved, you lose a huge amount of information that is built up in the language," he said. "If something is named 'a place where the caribou mate,' that tells you the caribou were once there if they are not there now. If you lose a particular plant that might translate as 'medicine weed,' you understand how it has been used."
Treadwell noted that, in two separate instances, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration changed its estimate of the Arctic's bowhead whale population based on native reports that showed more whales than the government initially counted.
For her part, Weatherhead said her next step will be examining how climate change affects the persistence of weather patterns around the world.
"This increase in persistence that we're seeing in very many places is just as important as the decrease in persistence that Arctic inhabitants are talking about," she said. "It has potential human health impacts, for example. People with asthma can often take one day of bad weather. Two is stressful. But at three, they might find themselves in the emergency room."
The study will be published this month in the journal Global Environmental Change.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500