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Arctic's Changing Climate on Display

April 12, 2006|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — It's becoming harder to find the right snow to build an igloo, and melting permafrost is turning land into mud. With climate change, the nature of the Arctic is changing too -- in ways that worry the people who live there.

The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History opens a pair of exhibits Saturday, "Arctic: A Friend Acting Strangely" and "Atmosphere: Change Is in the Air," discussing what is happening to the climate and how it affects people living in the planet's northernmost areas.

"They are truly concerned," anthropologist Igor Krupnik said Tuesday of the Arctic natives.

The Arctic exhibit title comes from an Inuit word natives have used to describe the changing climate -- uggianaqtuq -- suggesting unexpected behavior or "a friend acting strangely."

The ocean is eating their land as sea ice melts and storms erode shorelines and wash away fishing communities. The changing climate means new plants in some areas and new migratory routes for animals that people depend on for food.

Although some government scientists have reported political pressure to limit their comments on climate change, Robert Sullivan, the museum's associate director for public programs, said that did not happen in the development of these exhibits.

"Here's the data," Sullivan said. "This is not a political position. It's just scientific data.

"There have been some suggestions that the data is unclear. Well, the data is not unclear," Sullivan said.

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