Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Around the Arctic November 22, 2010 - 3:53 pm

Warm temperatures flood the eastern Arctic

“It could be a record-breaking November”

On Nov. 19, rain and melting snow produced huge puddles all over Iqaluit. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)
On Nov. 19, rain and melting snow produced huge puddles all over Iqaluit. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)

Iqalummiut were better off wearing rain slickers rather than parkas for most of the past month as unusually warm temperatures continue to flood the eastern Arctic.

Above zero temperatures have dominated weather forecasts in Iqaluit this November, where on some days temperatures have risen almost 20 degrees above the average.

Normal temperatures for this time of year in Iqaluit fall between -11 C and -19 C, but the coldest day this month only dipped to about - 9 C.

The mercury crept to 3.5 C in Iqaluit on Nov. 19, a couple degrees shy of the 5.5 C record high registered on the same day in 1977.

And that trend is likely to continue across most of the Arctic this week, said Environment Canada meteorologist Rene Heroux, with more above zero temperatures in store for the Eastern Arctic, including Nunavik.

“Let’s just say it’s not as cold as it’s supposed to be,” Heroux said. “It could be a record-breaking November the way it’s going now.”

Southwesterly winds pushed warm air north this month, meaning higher than usual temperatures everywhere in the Arctic region, Heroux said.

Temperatures have registered 10 C above normal in northern Foxe Basin, 6 C to 8 C above normal in Hudson Strait and 7 C to 9 C above normal in western Hudson Bay.

As a result, Heroux said the development of ice is about four weeks late in Foxe Basin, which remains largely open water. 

The freeze-up is about two weeks late in western Hudson Bay with only a very narrow fringe of new ice evident along the western and southern shores. 

“It’s a bit like last year,” Heroux said. “Temperatures are behind and the ice is late.”

The open water in the Arctic has an impact on southern temperatures too, Heroux added.

When Arctic air passes over the open Hudson Bay, the water warms the air before it travels south. That accounts for above average temperatures experienced in southern Quebec and Ontario this fall.

“We don’t always see how the Arctic impacts our weather down south,” Heroux said. “The Arctic is a thermostat for the rest of the country.”

On the other hand, the Western Arctic sent a chilly air mass to southwestern Canada last week, plunging cities like Edmonton and Calgary into the minus 20s.

But mild temperatures are forecast all across the Arctic this week.

Three factors can usually explain abnormal weather patterns, Heroux said, including normal variability from one winter to the next, climate change and El Nino, a warming of the Pacific Ocean every few years that causes unusual global weather patterns.

Last winter, Environment Canada logged Nunavik’s mildest winter on record, with an average temperature of only -14.5 C.

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