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Iqaluit experiences its warmest December


December 2010 is the warmest on record in Iqaluit
December 2010 is the warmest on record in Iqaluit

Matt Casey, staff writer

January 7, 2011 — In the north, Iqaluit is feeling dramatically warmer than seasonal.

Temperature records in January.
Temperature records in January.

Winter is one season where most would expect it to be very cold -- especially in extreme northern Canada. But this winter, Iqaluit has seen its warmest December since record keeping began.

The temperature for the month averaged out around -8.44°C. That beat the previous record of -11.8°C set back in 1985 for the same month.

In a typical December, Iqaluit is below -20°C. Not this winter.

The rare onset of mild weather has created some problems within the region. Instead of snow falling, it's been mostly rain, resulting in ice covered streets in Iqaluit.

On both Tuesday and Wednesday, schools and government offices in Nunavut were forced to close their doors as road crews work to sand the slippery streets. Flights in and out of Iqaluit have also been cancelled due to icy and foggy conditions.

The mild weather didn't stop in December. January temperature records are falling, too. Iqaluit set new records on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday with temperatures above freezing.

WHY HAS THE NORTH BEEN SO WARM THIS SEASON?

It all has to do with a very dominant weather pattern.

“The warm December in Iqaluit ties in with the overall weather story across North America, the North Atlantic Ocean, and Europe as the jet stream pattern brought colder than normal weather to the eastern U.S., warmth to Baffin Island and Greenland, snow and cold to Europe,” explains Chris Scott, a meteorologist here at The Weather Network.

The same pattern that is ushering in warmer conditions to the north is also responsible for the onset of wet weather in Newfoundland, Scott adds. In December, St. John's saw close to 320 mm of rain, smashing an average of 88.4 mm for the month.

Meanwhile, the position of the jet stream brought wintery weather to Europe. In December heavy snow blanketed parts of the United Kingdom. The unusual amounts of snow and freezing temperatures created traveller chaos at London's Heathrow airport. Thousands of travellers were left stranded for days during one of the busiest travel times of the year, Christmas.

The snowfall also overwhelmed rail travel in the country. Snow caused overhead lines to collapse on the East Coast rail line, stopping trains and forcing passengers to abandon them.

A negative North American Oscillation pattern is in place this season
A negative North American Oscillation pattern is in place this season

The technical name for this type of weather pattern is known as a negative North Atlantic Oscillation, or NAO. It is also known as a Greenland Block.

“One thing to remember is that no two weather patterns are exactly the same, so a negative NAO doesn’t always result in a certain type of weather,” says Scott.

And although the trend for Canada's north has been a warming one for the last 10 to 15 years, Iqaluit still receives its share of freezing temperatures.

“Iqaluit can still experience very cold temperatures. The mean December temperature two years ago was -24.19°C, which is below the 30 year normal of -22.7°C. Statistically, Iqaluit’s December temperatures are quite variable, comparable to the variability that Calgary experiences.”

To find out what this winter holds for your area, check out The Weather Network's winter outlook.

With files from Andrea Stockton and Lisa Varano

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