Climate change or just wacky weather?

“The Arctic is … it’s toasty.”

By -none-

DAN BENOIT

This winter is shaping up as one of the warmest and wackiest on record across Canada’s north.

Just ask Yvonne Bilan-Wallace, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada in Edmonton.

Bilan-Wallace said record-breaking warm temperatures in September and October were set all across the North. But November was unusually cold with warmer temperatures following in December.

The average temperatures in the Arctic for the month of December were as much as 4 C warmer than November, Bilan-Wallace said Tuesday.

The December statistics for Yellowknife showed an average temperature of -14.7 C, while normal temperatures should have been -23.7 C.

Rankin Inlet’s average temperature was -19.8 C while normal temperatures would have been -26.7 C. Cambridge Bay’s average temperature was -24.7 C while the normal temperature should have been around -29.6 C.

Resolute’s average temperature was -26.9 C, while normal temperatures for this time of year should have been around -29.2 C.

And Iqaluit was a few degrees off normal as well, with average temperatures of -19.1 C, while normal for that time of year would be -22.7 C.

Longer-range models call for February through April to be generally above normal, with the exception of the Baffin area.

For the Arctic, it’s been the either the warmest or second warmest winter in 59 years, she said.

“Every area was very warm. The Arctic is … it’s toasty,” she said.

The next warmest winter was in 1998.

“Temperatures were 2.5 C above normal, but that was an El Nino year.”

Eight of the last 10 warmest years have occurred since the 1980s.

Early data shows the national average temperature for 2006 was 2.4 C above normal, ranking it as the second warmest year – just 0.1 C behind 1998 – since nation-wide records began in 1948, she said.

With the exception of the springs of 2002 and 2004, seasonal temperatures have remained above normal for the more than nine years, she said.

Environment Canada’s records show annual temperatures have generally been increasing nationally, with a warming trend of 1.3 C over the last 59 years.

Its national temperature table shows six of the warmest 10 years have occurred within the last decade, she said.

The last five years have experienced above normal precipitation, and trends have returned to levels close to normal from the peak in the early 1980s.

The wettest year was 2005 and the driest was 1956. Seasonal precipitation levels have been at or above normal for eight of the last nine seasons, with this past summer being the exception.

Nine of the 11 climate regions ranked among the 10 warmest years out of 59 years of record, with three of them, arctic tundra at 3.4 C, arctic mountains and fiords at 2.3 C and the northeastern forest at 2.3 C all experiencing their warmest year.

“What you’re seeing now, is it climate change?” she asked.

“What you have to remember is that one year does not make a trend. But something’s happening with the climate for sure.”

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