The heat’s on in Kuujjuaq
Nunavik's adminstrative hub sees a chain of 20 C-plus days
KUUJJUAQ — You had a hard time finding many people in Kuujjuaq over this past weekend when the temperatures topped 20 C, under sunny, cloudless skies.
Kids in Kuujjuaq headed down to the beach at the Koksoak River to build sand castles June 2 when the temperatures reached 26 C, about 10 degrees above the average high temperature, breaking the previous record high of 22.5 set in 2008.
The heat wave is predicted to continue through this week in Nunavik’s largest community, where temperatures also topped 25 C on Sunday.
“Since the beginning of the new year, we can’t say that the temperatures are above normal [in Kuujjuaq],” said Environment Canada meteorologist René Heroux, noting that the past winter in Kuujjuaq proved itself to be “a real winter.”
As for the coming summer, Heroux said “we can’t say what it will be like.”
But in June 4 in Kuujjuaq temperatures had already reached 19 C by 11 a.m., and they are set to hit a high of 22 C (about 10 degrees higher than forecast for southern Quebec).
That high is likely to be another record-breaker because the previous highest temperature, since 1947, was 20 C set in 1995.
While people in Kuujjuaq are now wearing sleeveless tops, shorts and sandals around town, in 1985, they would still have had their parkas on and snow shovels out, because there was 30 centimetres of snow on the ground. In 1953 the daily high only reached -5.3 C.
The average maximum for June 4 is usually about 9.6 C.
To keep things cool, many people are ice fishing on the still-frozen lakes around town or staying at their cabins on the more windy plateau out of town.
Most offices have also installed air conditioners — such as the new one retrofitted on to the top of the Kativik Regional Government building.
Around Kuujjuaq you can see the grass greening day by day, while shrubs and trees appear to the taking off.
A similar heat wave recently affected Greenland. On May 29 temperatures in the southern Greenland town of Narsarsuaq hit 24.8 C — the hottest temperature ever recorded in Greenland in May and close to breaking the highest temperature ever recorded in Greenland.
The previous record for May, a temperature of 22.4 C, was recorded May 31, 1991 in Kangerlussuaq.
The Arctic heat in some locations comes as scientists say recording stations in the Arctic and Mongolia have registered high levels of carbon dioxide, a gas that warms the atmosphere.
The levels haven’t been as high for 800,000 years prompting scientists to say that these are “an indication that we’re in a different world.”
Another recent study, reported on in Nature Climate Change, says temperatures are increasing at “unprecedented rates across most of the tundra.”
Researchers looked at changes in tundra vegetation between 1980 and 2010 in 46 locations, including Nunavut’s Ellesmere Island.
They found plants are taller, and that there are more small plants, more evergreen, low-growing and tall shrubs, and less bare ground — impacts of the warming climate that many in Kuujjuaq say they have also seen over the past 30 years.