Nunavut’s warmer-than-normal October temperatures expected to last into November

Grise Fiord saw highs of 3.4 C, when the average temperature would be about -15 C

This photo taken in 2018 shows a normal sight in Cambridge Bay in early October: frozen sea ice. But this year, temperatures remained mild until the end of October and the water remained open. The overall temperature variation from the norm in Cambridge Bay was 3.8 C. (File photo)

By Jane George

Some Nunavut communities experienced unusually warm temperatures in October, according to Environment Canada.

And higher-than-average temperatures are likely to continue into November, climate scientists say.

In Grise Fiord, Canada’s most northerly community, several mid-October temperatures were more than 18 C higher than the historical average for that date.

On Oct. 18 and Oct. 19, the high temperature there reached 3.4 C, where the average temperature over the past five years for that date would be about -15 C.

Then, on Oct. 20, Grise Fiord came in as the hot spot in all three territories, with a high of 2.2 C, compared to an average of -15 C.

In this graphic, you can see temperature anomalies, or variations from the normal, were positive in several Nunavut communities. (Map courtesy of Patrick Duplessis)

When weather-watcher Patrick Duplessis from Dalhousie University looked at the past month’s temperatures across the North, he found higher than average monthly temperatures since 1981 in the following Nunavut communities during October:

  • Resolute Bay, by 3.7 C
  • Cambridge Bay, by 3.8 C
  • Alert, by 2.3 C
  • Rankin Inlet, by 0.9 C
  • Clyde River, by 2.2 C
  • Iqaluit, by 1 C

Climate scientists expect temperatures in large parts of the Arctic to remain warmer than normal into November. That’s because areas of open water continue to release huge amounts of heat into the atmosphere.

The outlook for temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere through Nov. 13, as calculated by a model. The dark colours over the Arctic show where temperatures are forecast to be more than 10 degrees Celsius warmer than normal. (Image from WXCHARTS.com)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in collaboration with the World Meteorological Organization, is also predicting wetter than normal conditions across the majority of the Arctic region this winter.

Meanwhile, 2020 averaged the lowest Arctic sea extent in the satellite-era for the month of October.

Residents of Gjoa Haven and Cambridge Bay said in mid-October that the sea ice outside their communities was just beginning to form.

That’s much later than in 2014 and 2018 when the ice formed in late September along the Northwest Passage, preventing the passage of cruise ships and sealift barges.

Mark Serreze, the director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, says a process called “Atlantification” is now affecting the formation of Arctic sea ice.

“The ice is now getting hit both from the top by a warming atmosphere and at the bottom by a warming ocean. It’s a real double whammy,” he said in the Conversation.

 

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