Inuvik experienced one of its warmest, driest summers on record

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Inuvik experienced one of its hottest and driest summers on record in 2021. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC - image credit)
Inuvik experienced one of its hottest and driest summers on record in 2021. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC - image credit)

It wasn't part of your imagination if you thought it was warmer this summer in the Northwest Territories.

Inuvik, N.W.T., experienced its seventh warmest summer on record according to data from Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Between June and August, the average was 13.4 C, which is 1.2 C warmer than the 30-year average between 1981 and 2010.

"It was very warm and in fact, it was also very dry," said Armel Castellan, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada. He said there's been 65 years of record keeping at the Inuvik station.

Castellan said July was the warmest month this summer, with the average that month at 16.4 C, about 2.3 degrees higher than the climatological average.

It was also the driest July on record with only 4.5 millimetres of precipitation compared to the average 35 millimetres.

Heat dome effect

Castellan said the heat dome that was centred on coastal British Columbia "was actually so large that it reached Inuvik and and further north."

"So [Inuvik] was actually in the heat warnings ahead of southern B.C. because at that time of the year, of course, the solstice has 24 hours of sun. And so the ability for you to crest to those extreme numbers was even earlier."

He said June 27 was the peak of the heat dome where several communities hit all-time records, including Fort Providence, N.W.T., which hit 35.6 C and Fort Liard, which hit 35.2 C.

Castellan said the overnight low temperatures were the highest for many locations in the North, and Inuvik broke the maximum-minimum temperatures five times this summer.

"The most notable was on July 21 when the temperature only dipped down to 21 C, which is quite a warm temperature overnight and obviously can have health repercussions," he said.

Norman Wells, N.W.T., also experienced a record temperature when it hit 31.3 C in the community on July 31.

Impacts on plants

One place that felt the impact was the Inuvik Community Greenhouse.

When some plants are hot, they will "bolt," experiencing sudden growth as they enter the seeding process, and then die afterwards.

"When it gets really warm like plus 30 C or plus 35 C, there's just so much heat in here and the heat stays in, which is great for some plants but it's not great for all the plants," said Peter Clarkson, chair of the Community Greenhouse Society of Inuvik.

Mackenzie Scott/CBC
Mackenzie Scott/CBC

He said radishes bolt but corn and tomatoes do very well in the heat along with apples.

Clarkson said it's more work when it's warmer because the plants require more water and they grow "like crazy." He said it was very noticeable how warm it was this summer since it also affected the mosquito season, making it short due to the heat and dryness.

"We got lucky there weren't a lot of forest fires around for how dry it was, at least in our area," said Clarkson.

Concerns about warmer weather

Jeff Amos, an Inuvik resident, said he's been noticing it getting warmer annually.

He said he missed much of the heat wave in Inuvik because he was in Whitehorse, where for the first time, he experienced temperatures over more than 30 C for an entire week.

Submitted by Jeff Amos
Submitted by Jeff Amos

Amos said he's noticed a lot of change while muskrat trapping, and he does have concerns about the impacts the warmer weather may have on the animals that they harvest and rely on for nourishment.

"I spend a lot of time with my family out on the land and even driving down the Dempster [Highway] just recently," he said. "There's a lot of erosion, a lot of change in the land."

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