The WCRP Climate and Cryosphere (CliC) project, approved in March 2000, will continue any unfinished elements of ACSYS when that project concludes in 2003, but it has a global focus on the climatic role of the cryosphere. Accordingly, Arctic land ice, frozen ground, and snow cover will receive attention, as well as Arctic sea ice. Major climatic concerns are the state of the Arctic sea ice in the mid-21 st century, the parametrization of the cryosphere in climatic and hydrologic models, the interactions of snow and frozen ground in energy and moisture fluxes, and the effects of changes in snow and ice cover on hydrology (Allison et al., 2001; see http://clic.npolar.no).
The Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) is an interdisciplinary, multiscale US program with a core aim of understanding recent and ongoing changes in the climate-ocean-ice system of the Arctic. These changes include a decline in sea level atmospheric pressure, an increase in surface air temperature, cyclonic ocean circulation, and a decrease in sea ice cover. The physical changes produce changes in the ecosystem and living resources and affect the human population (The SEARCH Science Steering Committee, 2001).
The Arctic Climate Impacts Assessment (ACIA) is an international project of the Arctic Council to evaluate and synthesize knowledge of climate variability and change, including changes in ultraviolet radiation, and their consequences for the environment and its living resources, human health, and the economy of Arctic nations. It complements the IPCC studies with more detailed regional assessments. Its three-volume report was published in 2004 (http://www.acia.uaf.edu/).
See also Climate Change; Climate: Environmental Initiatives; Drifting Stations; General Circulation Modeling; Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); Meteorological Stations; Satellite Remote Sensing
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People throughout the circumpolar North share similar problems in dealing with the climate. The severe cold of the Arctic dictates that garments have superior insulating properties, block the wind, and not trap moisture. Additionally, subsistence activities require that clothing be lightweight and durable. In precontact times, Arctic peoples solved these problems by using materials from land and sea to create garments that conserved body heat while allowing freedom of movement. These climate-related factors were only one influence on the design of clothing, however. Garments also functioned in a social and spiritual sense in order to identify groups; communicate gender, familial, and community affiliations; claim status; and mediate an individual's spiritual relationships. These characteristics of clothing relate to the anthropologist Edmund Leach's observation that cultural objects have both pragmatic and communicative functions; they not only do something in protecting their wearers from the weather but also say something by communicating group affiliation and personal identity.
Clothing sets the stage for a person's interactions with other humans, animals, and the spiritual world. The array of clothing across the North illustrates how widely separated groups developed common solutions to common problems and also how those same groups, using many of the same materials, created richly diverse expressions of identity.
Back of a man's Saami tunic with broad bands of braiding, Kautokeino, Norway.
Copyright Bryan and Cherry Alexander Photography
Back of a man's Saami tunic with broad bands of braiding, Kautokeino, Norway.
Before contact with the Europeans, northern peoples constructed tailored clothing from tanned animal skins, using sinew for thread. Sewing tools were ivory or bone needles, stone awls, knives with stone blades, and thimbles of hide. Caribou or reindeer skin was the most ubiquitous clothing material. Seals, polar bears, birds, and small furbearers such as the Arctic hare and ground squirrel were also used. Dehaired sealskin and gut from seals, walrus, and other mammals had waterproof properties and were fashioned into garments for wet conditions. The fundamental design of Arctic clothing was dictated by the climate.
Available throughout the North, caribou and reindeer skins offered the warmest garments because the hairs were hollow and insulating. Layered garments provided the most warmth in cold weather. An inner garment was worn with the hair facing the person's skin and an outer garment was worn with the hair facing out. The air space between the two garments insulated the wearer, who could further regulate the airflow with a belt or by adjusting the garment's hood. In severe weather, Arctic inhabitants wore an additional fur parka or cloak.
Once the requirements of physical function (warmth, breathability, and water repellence) were met, group-specific design took over, shaping clothing into distinct statements of identity. Arctic peoples adorned clothing with bands of contrasting skin, pieced in geometric or naturalistic patterns. They embroidered it with dyed reindeer hair, decorated it with bird beaks or feathers, animal claws or tails, and trimmed it with all varieties of fur. Animal-shaped buttons were carved of ivory and belts were woven from the shafts of feathers or decorated with caribou teeth or wolverine claws. No aesthetic opportunity was ignored. In some instances, the importance of group-identifying stylistic conventions overrode physical functionality. The thin, tight-fitting garments of the Even and Evenk, for example, including coats that did not close in front, sacrificed warmth for style, as did the wide-necked combination suits of Chukchi women.
Spiritual considerations went hand in hand with aesthetics; in order not to offend the animals being hunted, clothing must be beautiful and in good repair. In most northern groups, seamstresses could not work on marine mammal skins during caribou hunting or sew caribou garments during the marine mammal hunting season because they believed they would put the success of the hunt or the hunters at risk. Amulets made from various animal skins or parts were attached to clothing to imbue the wearer with that animal's characteristics or to protect the wearer from evil spirits. Shamans wore special garments that enhanced their powers. Decorated with fur tassels, human and animal spirit figures, and symbols of power, these parkas, caps, and gloves connected shamans with the spirits to accomplish tasks of healing, divination, and combating evil spirits.
As contact with nonindigenous groups occurred, indigenous people adopted new tools, materials, and ideas. Practicality, the attraction of bright beads, fabrics and braids, and the imposition of the clothing mores of colonizing peoples transformed indigenous dress. Cloth covers were made for skin parkas in Canada, Alaska, and Siberia, for example, protecting the delicate skins from dirt and snow. These covers, taking the form of shirts for men and dresslike garments with flounces at the bottom for women, accommodated the civilizing goals of missionaries and teachers by hiding the skin garments. Over time, these garments came to be worn by themselves, without the insulating skin underneath. They have been adopted by native groups throughout Alaska, Canada, and in some areas of Siberia. Although transformations of traditional styles, these garments are clear declarations of indigenous identity and authenticity and are worn to political advantage in local, national, and international settings.
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