Weather watchers call for hot spell after chilly March
Expect another warm Arctic summer
March was cold in the Arctic, but temperatures from elsewhere in the world show 2007 is on its way to becoming the hottest year in recorded history.
Environment Canada's longer-range forecasts for the Arctic reflect this warming trend, says meteorologist Yvonne Bilan-Wallace from the Arctic weather office. In fact, these forecasts show Nunavut heading into a warm summer.
And forecasts for the summer of 2007 are even more extreme from Resolute Bay's resident sky watcher, Wayne Davidson, who predicts that after a cool spring, the entire continent of North America will be "really, really hot."
Davidson photographs the sun, using special filters – and his most recent images display surprising changes.
Davidson finds this spring's sun is rounder than before, it's setting earlier, and it dips below the horizon in a slightly different location than 2005. He says these changes result from the way warm air deforms light as it hits the atmosphere, so cameras and the human eye see the sunset differently.
Inuit also frequently mention changes in the sun's appearance and the location of sunsets when they're asked about the impacts of climate change in the Arctic.
"Down south, people spend more time looking at Britney Spears than at the sky," Davidson said. "Up here people are more on the land."
According to Davidson, the larger sun disks mean is the atmosphere – not just the sliver closest to the ground – is heating up despite a colder-than-average March.
"In all cases, 100 per cent of the cases, when the sun is bigger, that's related to the temperature of the higher atmosphere," Davidson said.
But many in Nunavut found it difficult to detect signs of global warming last month, when the Arctic region was the coldest spot on the planet.
"You could use this to say there's no global warming, but you have to see it in the context of the entire world. In one spot it can be cold, and the other part of the world it can be hot," Davidson said.
A NASA map of average monthly temperatures around the world shows Canada's Arctic experienced below-average temperatures in March, while Russia's North saw temperatures as much as eight degrees higher than normal. Davidson calls this situation "remarkable" because last year the cold spot was frozen over Russia.
"This year it is here," he said.
During March, Resolute Bay saw average temperatures between -30.7 C and
-37.5. These are far below the monthly norms between
-27.2 C and -34.4 C.
But, by the beginning of last week, temperatures there had reached -9 C, as the frigid air, which hung over most of Nunavut, gave way to warmth.
"This cold, which took a month to make, is being demolished, and in its wake we're sharing the same warm air as the rest of North America," he says. "There's been an extraordinary rebound in heat. It rebounded in a day or two – boom!"
The cold weather followed by the upswing in temperatures provided Davidson with particularly good conditions to observe the sun. As soon as a blizzard moved the cold air mass over the High Arctic, his observations of sun disks showed "enormous gains" in heat.
This, he says, is due to the powerful heating of the entire atmosphere, at all levels.