London, Europe Brief News – Temperatures have risen faster in the Arctic region than elsewhere on earth, and the impact of climate change is being felt on the local way of life.
On the outskirts of Ilulissat, colourful apartment blocks overlook a field that’s home to dozens and dozens of dogs.
Dog-sledding has been a long-held tradition in the north and east of Greenland. But many local hunters and fishermen have given it up and the number of sled dogs has slumped nationwide.
Around two decades ago there were around 5,000 dogs in Ilulissat alone, but now there are only about 1,800, says Flemming Lauritzen, who runs a dog-sledding tour business with his wife Ane Sofie.
When she was growing up sled dogs were always around, she says. “I’m not happy to see [the dogs] disappearing from our culture.”
Diseases and snowmobiles are partly responsible. Also climate change has had an impact. “The season is getting shorter and shorter. We can feel that,” says Flemming.
Over the years they’ve also witnessed the nearby glaciers retreat.
“All of this ice is missing now,” Flemming says as he points to a map of the Sermeq Kujalleg or Jakobshavn glacier.
It’s one of the few outlets where Greenland’s ice sheet meets the sea. Over 35,000 cubic metres of ice calve from the glacier each year, and more icebergs spew into Disko Bay than anywhere else in the northern hemisphere.
Tour boat skipper George Jonathansen skilfully weaves around these giants. Even young people like him have seen change within their lifetimes.
“When I was a kid, the weather was more predictable. Nowadays… we never know how the winter is going to be,” he says.
“I think this year has been unusual compared to the others.” This summer was cold, he says, “A lot of places in Greenland have record rain.”
When asked about climate change, Palle Jerimiassen, the local mayor of Avannaata district says: “We can feel it everyday. We can see it every day.”
Further north, near Thule, retreating sea ice is impacting local hunters, he tells the BBC. “They are used to going on some very long hunting tours. They can’t do it anymore. So they have to change their way of living.”
“There’s some negative things. There are also some positive things,” he states.
In some ways Arctic life has become easier. Milder winters have brought new opportunities and Ilulissat is booming.