Climate change may bring more weather pyrotechnics, forecaster says

Lights, action, thunderstorms!


This past July, Nunavummiut experienced a full range of summer weather extremes from floods and lightning strikes to cool temperatures and record-breaking highs.

On July 17, people in Arviat were treated to a scary show of forked lightning, which wildlife officers say struck and killed some caribou about 10 kilometres from the community.

Most meteorologists say thunderstorms and lightning have been rare in Arctic regions because the warm, moist conditions needed by thunderstorms are lacking.

But Arctic thunderstorms aren't unheard of. Early European explorers in the early 1800s noted thunderstorms on the northern coasts of Canada, Alaska and Siberia.

There may be a lot more thunder and lightning events in Nunavut now than meteorologists know about, said Environment Canada weather meteorologist Yvonne Bilan-Wallace.

As the climate warms, lightning may also become a more common phenomenon in Arctic regions than it once was.

"The problem is that there is a lot of year to year variability, so it will be hard to detect in the shorter term," Bilan-Wallace said.

July also brought storms, which dumped torrential rains on Nunavut. On July 20 and 21, Kugluktuk saw more than 178 millimetres (seven inches) of rain, which caused severe erosion in the community.

According to Environment Canada, both of these rainfalls were one-in-100-year events.

Iqaluit had held the previous July rainfall record for Nunavut of 52.8 mm (about two inches), which fell on July 14, 1968.

Breaking all previous temperature records, Eureka on Ellesmere Island saw three straight days of sunny, warm weather in July.

The highest temperature recorded in Eureka was 20.7 C on July 23, when a new monthly record was set. The temperatures of 20 C on the 22nd and 18.5 C on the 24th at 18.5 C also broke the previous records for those days.

The warm days pushed Eureka's average July temperature up from its normal average of 5.7 C to 7.2 C.

Resolute had its second warmest summer since 1948 and Cambridge Bay its third warmest since 1929.

But the place to be in Nunavut last month was Baker Lake, where the average temperature was 13.7 C.

The Baffin region was cool. Iqaluit had an average temperature of 6.6 C, the 10th coolest average for July since 1946. But it wasn't the coldest community in Nunavut this past July – Qikiqtarjuaq maintained an average temperature of only 3.2 C.

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