Arctic community in northwestern Canada sets temperature record amid 2nd summer heat wave

A file photo of Old Crow, a community in Canada’s northwestern Yukon territory. The community is under a heat warning from Environment Canada. (Karen McColl/CBC)

‘Arctic people… aren’t used to this kind of weather,’ says Brandon Kyikavichik

Old Crow resident Brandon Kyikavichik says it “feels quite uncomfortable” in his hometown this week as temperatures hover around 30 C.

“Arctic people… aren’t used to this kind of weather,” he said.

Old Crow is under a heat warning from Environment Canada, with daytime temperatures expected to hit 28 C and with overnight temperatures in the 14 C range.

On Tuesday, it set a new record, with temperatures hitting 29.7 C, beating the previous record of 28.5C set in 2002.

Impact on elders

Kyikavichik says he works alongside elders, who are particularly susceptible to heat-related illnesses.

Though they seem to be doing fine at present, “one thing I worry about is if the temperature keeps rising and it does get a lot hotter, then I would be worried about their safety,” he said.

Old Crow has already begun to feel the distinct effects of climate change, with ice break-ups occurring earlier and earlier in the spring.

The western Arctic, where the community is located, is one of the fastest-warming regions on the planet.

Concerns over wildlife

In northern Yukon, the average annual temperatures have increased by 2 C in the last 50 years. That’s twice the rate of warming in southern Canada.

Kyikavichik says he’s concerned about the effect on local caribou and salmon.

“Salmon are really sensitive to temperature changes in the water,” he said. “That really [worries] us because we still rely heavily on those resources as a means for subsistence.”

Temperature records were set earlier this summer in Whitehorse and Faro after a “heat dome” settled over the Pacific northwest.

As a result of that heat wave, experts are already predicting a rapid permafrost thaw in both Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

-With files from Claudiane Samson

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada:  Setting the (temperature) record straight in Canada’s Northwest Territories, CBC News

Greenland: Tipping points: can a leaked report tip the scales to climate action? Blog by Irene Quaile

Norway: Polar bears face extinction in Svalbard and Arctic Russia says scientist, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Record breaking temperatures recorded in Arctic Russia, Eye on the Arctic

Sweden: Sweden’s wildfire season later than usual, Radio Sweden

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