Two millennia of climate change, wildfires, and caribou hunting in west Greenland

Astrid Strunk, Sascha Krüger, Jens Fog Jensen, Jesper Olsen, Catherine Jessen

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Changing climatic conditions is a perpetual circumstance for mankind. In this study, we investigate local environmental and climatic changes near
Kangerlussuaq, west Greenland. Our reconstruction is based on a lake sediment core and methods include chemical proxies and a palynological analysis.
The investigated site is located 15 km from the Aasivissuit Inuit summer hunting ground, which has been in use for caribou hunting for more than
2000 years. The presented climatic reconstruction covers the time from c. 560 CE to present time. We identify three distinct periods of climate regimes:
From c. 560–1100 CE conditions were stable, warm and humid, and summer temperatures were 1.5–2°C warmer than today. 1100–1600 was a period of
cooler and very arid conditions with more sea ice, corresponding to the Neoglacial cooling. In this period, we detect two wildfire events and subsequent
temporary caribou abandonment of the area. From 1600 to present we find increasingly warmer conditions with more precipitation and less extensive
sea ice cover, gradually approaching today’s climate regime in Kangerlussuaq. We review the existing literature regarding the Aasivissuit summer hunting
ground, which was first used concurrently with the detected cooling. Despite climatic deterioration, the hunting ground was regularly in use throughout
the Neoglacial and onwards, with peak hunting intensity in the early 1700s. The detected wildfires and reindeer abandonment are interpreted to be
localized events at the coring site and did not affect the hunting ground. Our findings highlight the resilience of the Inuit hunters to climatic changes as
well as the advantages and limitations of local environmental reconstructions.
StatusUdgivet - 6 maj 2024


  • caribou hunting
  • Inuit cultures
  • multiproxy reconstruction
  • paleoenvironment
  • palynology
  • wildfires
  • West Greenland