Will the summer of 2006 be the hottest ever?

Solar tracker says warm air growing in atmosphere


This past winter may have been warm, with many places in Nunavut breaking long-standing temperature records, but the summer of 2006 will be the “King of Heat,” according to Wayne Davidson, a long-time observer of the sun in Resolute Bay.

”The summer should be warmer than last year, and last year was the warmest year in the northern hemisphere since records began,” said Davidson, who is able to cannily predict the weather by looking at the sun’s shape.

From his 20 years of observations and personal records, Davidson has found that the shape of the sun at the horizon is a reliable indicator of how much warm air is around: a very cold atmosphere squashes the sun near the horizon, but a warm one makes it look round.

This is due to refraction — that is, what happens when light bends as it travels through different mediums, such as when you put a pencil in a glass of water and the underwater part looks bent.

Try this, suggests Davidson, and you’ll see that the same thing occurs in the High Arctic when sunlight comes through the atmosphere and is magnified by the hot air, and then hits cold air.

Only this year, there’s not much cold air around.

This year’s sun is already looking very large and round, even in Resolute Bay, due to the presence of lots of warm air in the upper atmosphere.

“It’s becoming like Montreal. It’s changing real fast to look like Montreal at 30 C. It’s heading there at an incredible rate,” Davidson said.

Last year, average sun disk sizes were about two times larger than from 2002 to 2004: ”This in itself is a powerful sign of a hot summer to come.”

The warm air, Davidson said, is heading to the poles, just as many scientific models have predicted.

This warm air was responsible for the February warm spell in many parts of Nunavut and Nunavik, which saw record-breaking temperatures, rain and even lightning.

“That should be shocking. If that was happening in Toronto, plus 40 in the middle of January, they would pay attention,” he said. “The changes in the North are big, they’re massive… we see them, we feel them and there is hardly an audience.”

In 2005, Davidson’s predictions for warmth were dead-on.

Davidson said Canada is already enjoying a warmer than average spring.

“For most people it’s very enjoyable, even in Resolute Bay,” he said. “The wind is not biting, it’s not giving you a hickey anymore.”

The big question for Davidson now is how fast the atmosphere getting is warm.

“I know it’s faster than they were expecting it,” he said. “It’s going to be extremely warm. When the boats come here, 100 a day, Canada will be a different country. Even Canada will change if that happens.”

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