Publication Date August 15, 2017

Arctic heat wave sweeps across western Nunavut and High Arctic

Studies show the Arctic is heating up twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Scientists are concerned because impacts of a warming Arctic may be felt elsewhere. Photo: David Goldman, AP

Unseasonably warm temperatures over the past weekend saw people in the western Nunavut hub of Cambridge Bay heading out to their cabins or the beach, where some even dipped into the Arctic Ocean to cool off.

However, it wasn’t so long ago—for example, in 1974, according to Environment Canada—that you could expect to find snow on the ground at this time of year.

Recently, temperatures have been rising 10 degrees or more above normal ranges for this time of year in Nunavut’s Kitikmeot region and the High Arctic islands, where the weekend’s heat wave broke Environment Canada records.

Cambridge Bay’s high temperature of 22 C on Aug. 11 broke the previous high temperature of 20.5 C for that day, recorded in 2013.


Such warm Arctic temperatures reflect recent findings in the 2016 State of the Environment, the annual summary of the global climate, from the American Meteorological Society, released Aug. 11, that says the Arctic is “is warming at more than twice the rate of lower latitudes.”

In 2016, the average temperature of land surfaces north of 60 was two degrees Celcius above the 1981 to 2010 average, breaking the previous record of 2007, 2011, and 2015 by 0.8 C, the report said.

That represents a 3.5 C increase since record-keeping began in 1900, said the report, which includes a special section on the Arctic.