Two words have been used lately to describe the weather in the NWT: hot and dry.
Data proves these observations to be true – with Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) meteorologist Terri Lang describing this year’s spring conditions as “worrying”.
ECCC doesn’t have reliable long-term data for every northern community, but for places where it does – the data shows that the month of May in particular was warm in parts of both the NWT and Nunavut.
In fact, it was the hottest on record for the communities of Arviat, Baker Lake and Rankin Inlet in Nunavut, as well as Fort Liard, Fort Simpson and Yellowknife in the NWT
Step back and look at the entire meteorological spring, from the beginning of March to the end of May – it was the driest on record for Fort Liard.
“We had that big high-pressure ridge that settled in May, but that doesn’t explain the early parts of spring when it was even warmer than average,” Lang told Shannon Scott, CBC North’s weather and climate change reporter.
“All the answers more or less point to climate change.”
Lang said it’s “unbelievable” how much warming is noticeable in the north compared to other parts of Canada.
Think about the communities where May was the hottest weather on record. The margin of difference between what happened in May of this year and what is considered average is large: it was 7 degrees warmer in Arviat, Baker Lake and Yellowknife, 6 degrees warmer in Rankin Inlet and Fort Simpson, and 4 degrees warmer in Fort Liard.
Perspective from the land
The hot and dry conditions affect those who depend on the land for food.
In Délı̨nę, NWT, Leroy Andre noticed in mid-May that the ice on Great Bear Lake was receding faster than normal and the water level was low — about a foot.
“We’re seeing rocks that we haven’t seen before, we’re seeing things on the coast that we haven’t seen before,” he told CBC’s host Lawrence Nayally. Paths end.
“We’ve seen that before, and when all the ice melts, it usually lifts up a little bit, usually balances out, so we’ll see how it is this year.”
Before going out on land to hunt, Andre said his community members consult with the elders about the state of the ice. But those terms are getting harder to read, he said, and this year elders advised against the risk.
“Our elders and the land users say, well, it gets unpredictable, even around the lake here in the community, so no, don’t bother, you know, try to do something that might be too dangerous.”
Andre would like to see more attention paid to the environment, what causes the changes and what the possible solutions are.
“It gets scary,” he said.
Low ice predicted for Northwest Passage
The Canadian Ice Service predicts a year with “little ice” in the western interior of the Arctic, which includes both routes of the Northwest Passage.
Amanda Prysizney, an ice forecaster with the Canadian Ice Service, said the forecast is based on the significant amount of ice that melted last summer and the fact that the ice cover failed to recover over the winter. Although, she noted, there are caveats to the forecast — the outlook depends on forecasted temperatures and winds, and there’s still some old ice around that will take longer to melt.
“Really important to keep in mind that it could get even more dangerous because it’s more variable and we still have a lot of ice movement.”
Meanwhile, back at the Canadian Weather Bureau, meteorologists say summer is expected to bring warmer-than-average temperatures for all of Canada — and Lang said the north is no exception.
“It’s no coincidence that Western Canada is on fire,” she said.