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Todd Woody, Executive Editor, Environment, News Deeply

Executive Summary for June 23rd

We review the latest Arctic news, including a tsunami triggering the evacuation of three Greenland communities, Saami fears over plans to build a railway across northern Finland and steep falls in mercury levels in polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea.

Published on June 23, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Tsunami Slams Greenland

A tsunami struck northwestern Greenland on Saturday night, prompting the evacuation of about 200 residents from Nuugaatsiaq and two nearby communities.

As Nunatsiaq News reports, three adults and a child from Nuugaatsiaq were dragged into the sea and are presumed dead, while 11 houses were either destroyed or swept out to sea.

The tsunami is believed to have been caused by a large landslide in a neighboring fjord. The American Geophysical Union’s landslide blog reports that another rock face nearby also looks unstable, raising worries about a further collapse that prompted the evacuations.

Evacuees are staying at the bigger communities of Uummannaq and Aasiaat, where the Joint Arctic Command flew a Hercules aircraft to deliver donated clothing earlier this week, the CBC reports.

Finnish Rail Plans Raise Reindeer Worries

Saami are concerned about plans to build a railway that will cut through northern Finland to the coast of Norway.

As the Barents Observer reports, Finland hopes the 480km (300-mile) line will help facilitate more trade between Asia and Europe by providing a rail link to the Barents Sea. But Saami representatives worry about the impact of the route crossing through prime reindeer grazing lands.

Further south in Norway, reindeer regularly die in train collisions. Fences can reduce such incidents, but are an expensive solution and can hamper the movement of the deer and their herders.

Mercury Levels Drop in Beaufort Polar Bears

New research shows declining amounts of mercury in polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea. That seems like good news for the bears’ health, but Alaska Dispatch News reports that the underlying reasons are more worrying.

Polar bears in the region traditionally used sea ice as a hunting platform to catch ringed seals – which, as fish eaters high on the food chain, accumulate high levels of mercury. But as sea ice dwindles, the bears are turning to other food sources, namely the remains of bowhead whales left on the beach by hunters.

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