Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic December 02, 2013 - 8:41 am

Blizzards, extreme weather not increasing in Nunavut: meteorologist

Bad weather not a factor in rising search and rescues

PETER VARGA
The sun starts an early descent in Iqaluit on the late afternoon Nov. 29. As the winter solstice nears and the cold season begins, Environment Canada said the weather outlook calls for 2013-2014 looks “fairly typical.” (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)
The sun starts an early descent in Iqaluit on the late afternoon Nov. 29. As the winter solstice nears and the cold season begins, Environment Canada said the weather outlook calls for 2013-2014 looks “fairly typical.” (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)

Travellers’ lack of preparation on the land is one cause of Nunavut’s recent increase in calls for search and rescue, says Environment Canada.

Blizzards and other extreme weather events are not on the rise in the territory, said Brian Proctor, the federal agency’s northern warning and emergency preparedness meteorologist.

But more travellers are on the open land outside of communities, and they are might not be as well prepared for extreme weather as they should be, he said.

“I think there’s an assumption that people will be there to help them,” Proctor said. “I think previous generations, especially as people went out onto the land a lot, were very self-sufficient.

“Part of it is a preparedness issue,” he added. “People just have to look at what they’re doing, more ahead of time in terms what the possibilities might be.”

Proctor took on the job of northern warning preparedness meteorologist this month, at Environment Canada’s meteorological service office in Edmonton.

He replaces Yvonne Bilan-Wallace, who has retired.

Nunavut’s director of protection services Ed Zebedee has reported increases in search and rescue operations by about 10 to 15 per cent over the past seven years.

This, Zebedee said, is due to increased travelling on the land.

Proctor, who works with emergency measures organizations across the country, added that the loss of traditional knowledge could explain some if the increase in search calls.

“Part of what we’re looking at is an education process. A lot of our younger people are not quite as aware or traditional knowledge, and being prepared for (extreme weather) events as they go out onto the land,” he said.

“But I don’t see a big change in occurrences of blizzards, or severity of them.”

Proctor said this year’s winter weather in Nunavut outlook looks “fairly typical, like a normal year, if I can put it that way.”

A recent “deep low pressure” system in Davis Strait and Baffin Bay has been the only exceptional event so far, as fall shifts to winter.

The system has caused some blizzard conditions in the Baffin region, he said, which “is not typical of what we see in the fall season.”

Much of Baffin escaped the brunt of stormy weather caused by the system, he added.

“It appears most of the snowfall associated with it hooked up with the Greenland side of Baffin Bay-Davis Strait,” he said.

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