August 14, 2020

A rainy summer is melting the permafrost, building a better bat house in the Yukon, and growing food for outer space in Gjoa Haven. Plus, the astrophysicist who discovered the origins of the aurora. All in this week's Up Here newsletter.

Pamela Wood submitted this shot of the northern lights to our annual photo contest.


We're smack dab in the middle of production on our next issue and there's not a lot of time to rhapsodize here, so let's get to the news!

Thanks for reading,
Jacob Boon 


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A rainy summer has made for a mild wildfire season in the NWT. A total of 69 fires have burned 21,447 hectares of the territory so far this year. Last year by this time 142 wildfires had scorched 94,000 hectares. (CBC)

Of course, that’s not all good news. More precipitation means more permafrost thaw. (

Although thawed permafrost in the Arctic might seem like a distant threat, writes Susan Nerberg, it’s not. “Not only is there abrupt permafrost thaw in summer; it’s also happening in winter, releasing carbon dioxide when there are no photosynthesizing plants to absorb it. Over time, the Arctic might start to vent more carbon dioxide than it stores.” (

The CRTC is dumping $72 million into northern internet services in the NWT, Yukon, and northern Manitoba. Dozens of communities in each of the territories will be connected by fibre optic lines to faster, hopefully, more reliable internet. (

Elsewhere in infrastructure improvements, some much-needed upgrades to the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway are being accelerated after the NWT’s Industry Minister drove it. Funny how that works. (
Inuvik Drum)

People gathered in Behchokǫ̀ this week to celebrate 15 years of Tłı̨chǫ self-governance. But the celebration was a little different in these COVID-19 times. (

Why this Fort Smith woman moved nearly 10 hours away from her home to learn the art of moose hide tanning. (

The Inuit Circumpolar Council has launched a new podcast to amplify Inuit artists and voices from across Inuit Nunaat. ᐅᓂᒃᑳᑦ, which translates as “stories, reports, and testimonials,” will be known in English as Circumpolar Waves. (
Eye On The Arctic)

Inuvik resident Eliza Firth’s COVID-19 face mask has been selected as one of 45 artistic masks from across Canada that will be displayed this fall at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in Banff. Christina King, originally from Tuktoyaktuk, also had two of her masks chosen for the exhibition. (

In the Yukon, they’re building little houses for bats. (
Yukon News)

While over in Gjoa Haven, a community greenhouse project built in a hydroponic sea can could teach scientists how to grow food in outer space. (
How one Gwich’in artist captures the night sky in beads: Pamela Young looks at the otherworldly beadwork of Tsiigehtchic resident Margaret Nazon. Here’s a story Up Here published on Nazon’s cosmic artwork a couple of years back. (The Walrus)

Speaking of the stars, Carrie Fisher’s close friend and personal assistant recently told
Closer Weekly about the time they watched the aurora dancing across the dark skies in Yellowknife. “She had wanted to see the northern lights her whole life.” Princess Leia herself wrote about the moving experience back in 2013 for Port. (Various)

Joan Feynman, the astrophysicist who discovered the origin of those aurora, died last month at the age of 93. The younger sister of physicist Richard Feynman, Joan was an accomplished scientist who earned a PhD in 1958 while studying “condensed matter theory.” Despite her accomplishments, however, Feynman found it difficult to secure a research position in the male-dominated scientific field and took a break from physics to take on the role of homemaker. “The break was short-lived, as Feynman grew depressed from the drudgery of keeping a home and caring for two small children,” reads this obituary from Leah Poffenberger. “In 1971, Feynman accepted a job at the NASA Ames Research Center, where she developed a way to detect solar coronal mass ejections from the sun by searching for the presence of helium in solar wind… In 1985, Feynman accepted a position at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, where she would conduct research until her retirement. As part of her research at JPL, Feynman identified the mechanism that leads to the formation of auroras and developed a statistical model to determine the number of high-energy particles expelled from coronal mass injections that would hit a spacecraft during its lifetime.” (
American Physical Society)

A Yellowknife highway worker has gone somewhat viral after his dance moves were recorded by drivers on the Mackenzie Highway. "He was breaking it down. It was awesome.” (

And there's a new documentary premiering on the National Geographic channel this fall which chronicles the Inuit communities fighting to protect a rapidly changing Arctic. You can watch a trailer for The Last Ice at the link. (
Dall sheep in Denali. (NPS Photo/Lian Law)


“It took visiting the wildest of places to overcome my fear of the outdoors.” Alaska’s Denali National Park is surprisingly set up for the outdoor-averse. (Condé Nast Traveler)

Arctic wildfires have released more carbon in two months than Scandinavia will all year. (

Finland’s travel sector is recovering from the COVID-19 shutdown, but now some businesses are facing a staff shortage. Summer season workers and part-time staff have been unusually difficult to find. (

Careful with those visitors, though. Iceland now has active cases of coronavirus in “every part” of the country. (
Iceland Monitor)

Renowned climate scientist Konrad Steffen died this week after falling through ice in Greenland. “Koni's renowned work as a glaciologist has been instrumental in the world’s deepened understanding of the climate crisis,” 
wrote former U.S. vice-president and environmentalist Al Gore. At the time of his death, Steffen had been conducting climate research for over 40 years and had nearly 15,000 academic citations to his name. (USA Today)
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