Temperatures in Canada’s Northwest Territories soar above zero

A photo of Norman Wells, in Canada’s Northwest Territories. The community posted a temperature of 11.1 C — smashing a previous record-high for December of 5.7 C, set in 1985. (Eilis Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)
The mercury hit 11.1 C in Norman Wells, breaking a record for December

Unseasonably warm temperatures so far this month are causing Northwest Territories residents some problems.

In Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., Chuck Gruben’s truck wasn’t having it.

“I started to back out of the driveway and I started going sideways,” he told Wanda McLeod on CBC’s Northwind.

The thermostat hit zero degrees in the hamlet on Thursday, balmy for this time of year, when the average high is around -20 C.

But Tuktoyaktuk’s temperatures were frigid compared with other communities in the territory.

Unseasonable warming in other communities

Norman Wells hit a tropical 11.1 C — smashing its previous record-high for December of 5.7 C, set in 1985.

Wrigley also hit 11 degrees Thursday, while Fort Simpson, Sambaa K’e and the South Slave region all saw temperatures above zero.

“It’s not normal,” said Gruben, commenting on the heavy rain he was seeing in Tuktoyaktuk.

He said conditions were slippery and many people stayed home.

“Even to get down your steps, it’s pretty scary,” he said. “My wife, she went out to her work truck this morning. She had to sit on the steps and go down each step on her bum.”

The unusually warm weather may be even harder on the animals.

“For any animals or birds that forage out there, it’s going to be hard to dig for food once it freezes,” said Gruben.

Concerns for caribou

While temperatures in Tuktoyaktuk are forecasted to descend into the minus-teens and twenties over the weekend, these recent days of rain and warmth might not be forgotten by the caribou.

“These are the kind of winters that we dread for the caribou,” said Gruben, especially considering how animal numbers are declining.

“This just contributes to make it worse for them,” he said. “Going to see a lot of skinny caribou.”

– Written by Sidney Cohen based on an interview with Wanda McLeod

Related stories from around the North:

Canada:  2020 shaping up to be among warmest years on record says WMO, Eye on the Arctic

Greenland: Rise in sea level from ice melt in Greenland and Antarctica match worst-case scenario: study, CBC News

Russia: Northern climate change will cost country €99 billion says Russia’s Minister of the Arctic, Eye on the Arctic

Sweden:  Reducing emissions could create up to 3,000 new jobs in Arctic Sweden says mining group, Eye on the Arctic

United States: Indigenous wildfire knowledge to be key part of new Arctic Council project, Eye on the Arctic

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