The editor speculates about the creation of a Nobel prize for enlightened research in the Arctic and how one might go about earning such a prize.
Regional congruence of vegetation and summer climate patterns in the Queen Elizabeth Islands, Northwest Territories, Canada
Arctic, v. 42, no. 1, Mar. 1989, p. 3-23, ill., maps
ASTIS record 28965
In the Queen Elizabeth Islands, regional distributions of vegetation and many summer climate patterns show similar, distinctive S-shaped patterns, a response to the interaction between regional topography and persistent northwesterly flow from the central Arctic Ocean. The cool and cloudy central polar pack ice climate bulges almost unimpeded into the low-lying islands of the northwest and north-central sector. This region has the least vascular plant diversity and is dominated almost entirely by the herbaceous species. The mountains of Axel Heiberg and Ellesmere islands create a barrier that effectively shelters an intermontane region from both the central Arctic Ocean climate and travelling cyclonic systems. In this large intermontane zone regional minimums of cloud cover and maximums of temperatures and melt season duration are found. This area contains the most dense and diverse vascular plant assemblages. Woody species and sedges dominate, and many species with more southerly limits occur as disjuncts. The plateaus and highlands in the southern islands modify the central Arctic Ocean climate sufficiently to produce an intermediate climate. Woody species and sedges also dominate this area; however, the density and diversity are less than that of the intermontane area. Several phytogeographic limits occur in the Queen Elizabeth Islands, including the northern limits of woody plants and sedges, and the northern limits of the dominance of woody plants and sedges. These regional boundaries roughly coincide with regional mean July isotherms of 3 and 4°C respectively.
Observations on the ice-breaking and ice navigation behavior of migrating bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) near Point Barrow, Alaska, spring 1985
Arctic, v. 42, no. 1, Mar. 1989, p. 24-30, ill.
ASTIS record 28966
During a four-day period from 28 April to 1 May 1985, we observed bowhead whales breaking up through sea ice in order to breathe. Our observations were made from grounded sea ice approximately 10 km northeast of Point Barrow, Alaska, during the spring bowhead migration (14 April to 10 June). From acoustic and visual data, it was estimated that 665 whales passed the observation perches during this four-day period. However, only 117(17%) whales were seen. The remaining whales either passed underneath the ice or were beyond the range of the visual observers. Whales used their heads, in the area of the blowholes, to push up against the ice (18 cm maximum thickness) and fracture it, creating a hummock of ice in which they were able to respire. Often during such breathing episodes, even at distances of only several hundred meters, the animal was not seen but its blows were clearly audible to the visual observers. Acoustic tracking of whales showed they avoided a large multi-year ice floe seaward of the observation perch. We hypothesize that bowheads use their calls to assess the thickness of ice in their migratory path. In assessing their calls, we suggest the whales can avoid areas where the ice is too thick to break through (to breath) and/or too thick to provide clearance for them to swim beneath.
Geomorphology, vegetation succession, soil characteristics and permafrost in retrogressive thaw slumps near Mayo, Yukon Territory
Arctic, v. 42, no. 1, Mar. 1989, p. 31-40, ill., maps
ASTIS record 28967
Three retrogressive thaw slumps of varying age have been initiated by erosion of ice-rich glaciolacustrine sediments on a bend of Stewart River, 3 km upstream from Mayo, Yukon Territory. Two of the slumps are presently active; the third stabilized before 1944. The rate of retreat of the active slump headwalls between 1949 and 1987, determined from aerial photographs and ground surveys, is up to 16 m/yr. Floors of the active thaw slumps contain well-defined vegetation successional communities that are distinct from the local, mature boreal forest. Although a few clumps of mature forest vegetation survive the fall into the slump, a birch/white spruce sere, similar to the original forest, is re-established after a period of 35-50 years. Changes in soil calcium carbonate and soil structure profiles on disturbed surfaces of varying age demonstrate the initiation of pedogenesis in the floor of the stabilized slump, but assays of pH, orgainic carbon and total nitrogen indicate that after about 40 years the new soils remain immature. Comparison of ground temperatures in the stabilized thaw slump and at undisturbed sites in the area indicates that the ground thermal regime may return to local conditions a century or more after disturbance.
The hydrologic regime of lakes in the Mackenzie Delta is controlled primarily by lake sill elevations and water levels in the Mackenzie River distributary channels. The resulting variations in lake regime have important effects on the water, sediment, and nutrient balance of delta lakes, and therefore on the biologic regime of each lake. Analysis of 12-25 years of Mackenzie River East Channel water levels allowed the documentation of the relationship between flooding regime and sill elevation for lakes in the study area near Inuvik, N.W.T. These data showed that in this portion of the delta, the timing of the spring rise in water levels is very consistent, with peak levels, for example, occurring on 3 June with a standard deviation of only 4 days. The magnitude of the spring flood varies greatly from year to year, and as a result only 67% of lakes in the study area flood annually in the spring, while the remaining lakes have a flood frequency of greater than 1 year and less than 4 years. Since the mean summer flood peak of 2.777 m asl is considerably lower than the mean spring peak of 5.636 m asl, summer lake flooding is not as extensive, with only 20% of lakes receiving floodwater annually during the summer. By late summer, water levels drop to 1.5 m asl annually, cutting off approximately 88% of lakes from the Mackenzie River. These data on the return period of lake flooding allowed the classification system described by Mackay (1963) to be quantified. The no-, low- and high-closure lakes were found to represent 12, 55, and 33% respectively of all lakes in the study area. Variations in the hydrologic regime of the Mackenzie River could occur in the future due to hydro-electric development, climate change, or rising sea level. Even small changes in Mackenzie River levels could result in a significant modification to the hydrologic regime of delta lakes. The effects on the viability of these lakes, or their chemical and nutrient balances, are not well known.
Spatial representativeness of climatic data from Baffin Island, N.W.T., with implications for muskoxen and caribou distribution
Arctic, v. 42, no. 1, Mar. 1989, p. 50-56, ill., map
ASTIS record 28969
Climatic records from often widely scattered arctic stations are commonly used to draw conclusions about such matters as wildlife habitat and distribution, yet little is known about the validity of extrapolating from such limited data. Statistical tests of meteorological network representativeness can be applied where station numbers and record length permit. Such an analysis was carried out on 29 years of temperature and precipitation data from five stations in central Baffin Island and Foxe Basin. It was found that seasonal temperatures and degree-days correlate highly across the region, indicating that interpolation and extrapolation can be carried out with confidence. Such was not the case for rainfall, snowfall, and depth of snow cover, all of which showed large extrapolation errors over modest (mesoscale) distances. This is attributed to the intrinsic variability of precipitation in the region and, in the case of snowfall and snowdepth, the inadequacy of the measurement method. The result have been applied in an evaluation of suggestions concerning climatic constraints on the distribution and numbers of muskoxen and caribou, with the conclusion that the data do not support a causal relationship based on climate.
Water and sediment samples collected from a municipal waste disposal site near the Hamlet of Pangnirtung, Baffin Island, were analyzed for classical parameters and trace metals (Cd, Cu, Fe, Pb and Zn). Although all trace metal concentrations showed a considerable increase below the dump, only Pb and Fe in water samples from the main collector ditch and below the dump exhibited excessive levels, with 6.1 and 53.3 ppm respectively. The ratios between easily exchangeable metals and total metals ranged between 0.02 (Fe) and 18.7 (Cu), in accordance with related studies. There was no significant accumulation of any trace metal in the sediments below the disposal site, indicating rapid removal from the intertidal flats and subsequent accumulation in the bottom sediments.
The relationship between snow cover and the degree of surface disturbance caused by winter seismic vehicles was investigated on the Arctic Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Alaska. Ninety study plots were established on seismic lines and camp moves in tussock tundra and moist sedge-shrub tundra. Total snow depth and its components, slab layer and depth hoar, were measured during the winter. Plant cover changes, tussock disturbance, visibility and disturbance levels were determined at the study plots in the summer. Disturbance was found to be generally lower when snow depths were greater. In tussock tundra, plots with snow depths over 25 cm had significantly less disturbance than those with under 25 cm (p <0.05). The relationship between snow cover and disturbance was less clear in moist sedge-shrub tundra, where disturbance appeared to be less at snow depths above 25 cm, but these differences were not statistically significant (p <0.05). Slab depth, which does not include the loose layer of depth hoar, provided a better measure of protective snow cover in most sedge-shrub tundra, as slab depths over 20 cm resulted in significantly less disturbance (p <0.05). Moderate-level disturbance (25-50% decrease in plant cover) did not occur on trails where snow depths were at least 25 cm in tussock tundra and 35 cm in moist sedge-shrub tundra. Low-level disturbances (less than 25% decrease in plant cover) occurred on trails with snow depths as high as 45 cm in tussock tundra and 72 cm in moist sedge-shrub tundra.
... Harpoons have a wide distribution throughout the world, but it is among the Inuit that the most complex pre-industrial forms were developed. The primary use of the Inuit harpoon was for hunting sea mammals, both at breathing holes in the sea ice and in open water, although in some arctic areas the harpoon was used for fish as well. [The various styles of harpoons used in the Canadian Arctic from Prehistoric, Independence I, Pre-Dorset, early Dorset, late Dorset and Thule are described.]
The deHavilland Fox Moth is probably not as well known in northern aviation history as the Fokker Universal, the Fairchild or the Norseman of its time or, indeed, the highly successful deHavilland Beavers and Otters that followed. Nevertheless, it is a part of northern aviation history, providing transportation and supply links that contributed to the post-World War II development of the North. ... Out of the 53 Fox Moths that were built in Canada, 7 saw northern service. Several of these crashed, ending their final days in the North. In 1977, a local Yellowknifer initiated the concept of restoring a Fox Moth to its original condition using parts from various known crash sites. Although there were some skeptics, the idea soon caught on. With the assistance of Aero Arctic Helicopters and the Government of the Northwest Territories, parts of the aircraft were retrieved from three crash sites - the project was under way. ... Early in 1987 a group of aviation enthusiasts in Yellowknife, many of whom were connected with the Fox Moth project since its inception, banded together to form the Fox Moth Society. The aim of the society was to ensure that space was added to the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre to accommodate the Fox Moth. Many individuals and companies came forward, donating financial, human and material resources. ... The Northern Aviation Gallery was officially opened on 17 October 1987 in the presence of such notables as Max Ward and Stan McMillan, a fitting tribute to the early bush pilots and their crews.