The way it was: the winter of of 2020-21 delivered heat to many in Nunavut, Nunavik

You could call it Arctic warming: temperatures in Iqaluit, Nunavut were overall  +7 C higher during December, January and February than they were during these same three months between 1991 and 2020, as this map by Patrick Duplessis of Dalhousie University shows.

Duplessis found weather records show that average temperatures over this past winter were up to seven degrees Celsius higher than the average temperature over those same months between 1991 and 2020.

The significant positive anomalies during the winter of 2020-21:

+7 C for Iqaluit

+6.5 C for Kuujjuaq

+5.4 C for Clyde River

+3.5 C for Rankin Inlet

+4.9 C for Resolute Bay

Here you can see the anomalies or temperature variations from the average during the month of February. (Image courtesy of Patrick Duplessis)

February weather helped feed the three-month anomalies in Canada’s Arctic.

In February alone, Kuujjuaraapik and Kuujjuaq showed an increase of more than five degrees C over the normal average temperatures for the month. Iqaluit had a 7.5 C degree increase and Resolute Bay was 2.7 C warmer.

Also during that month, new records for daily high temperatures were set in Baker Lake, Gjoa Haven, Resolute Bay, Grise Fiord, Pond inlet Rankin Inlet and Arviat.

Three-month anomalies fed by record-breaking daily Arctic weather in February

In Naujaat, the temperature topped off at -5 C on Feb. 8 beating the previous old record from 2010 was -14.5 C.

And on Feb. 9 a high of -11.7 C in Resolute Bay set a new record high that date, The previous record was -13.9 C in 1960.

Feb. 11 also saw records tumble in Nunavut’s most northerly community of Grise Fiord where the high temperature of -6 C beat the old record of -10 C set 35 years in 1986. And in Grise Fiord it grew even warmer on Feb. 12, with the high of 2.5 C beating the old record of -9.6 C from 2011.

As well, in Kuujjuaq, record highs and lows were dropped on Feb. 6: the maximum temperature reached -0.2 C (old record  -0.6 C set in 1958) and the minimum temperature was only  -3.7 C (old record of  -11.1 C set in 1958.)

Heat in the Arctic, cold to the south

Meanwhile, amidst these warmer than usual Arctic temperatures in mid-February, the southern continental United States saw frigid weather that produced big snowfalls over Texas, paralyzed much of the southern states and led to the death of nearly 80 people.

The cause: a meteorological event which meteorologists call a Sudden Stratospheric Warming Event. This one was located about 30 kilometres over the North Pole, said the World Meteorological Organization.

The warming event led to a weakening of the polar vortex, an area of low pressure and cold air surrounding the North, the WMO said.

And this weakness allowed the cold air to slip down into the mid-latitudes and warmer air to enter the Arctic…

My best Arctic trips, Part 3

I was on a long trip north that had started in Finland….and I continued to drive, down the coast of Norway.

On the way south.

I knew that Arctic had more than enough wind for anyone. So I decided to take a detour to the 16 wind turbines in Havøygavlen’s Arctic Wind Park: they were producing clean energy from this plentiful natural resource, much like Nunavut or Nunavik could.

Located at 71 degrees latitude, the Arctic Wind Park, which opened in 2003, was the most northerly collection of wind turbines in the world.

And there I was.

The view to the sea from the wind farm in Havøysund on a sunny warm day.

When I drove to Havøysund, the giant towers appeared suddenly on a hillside, looking more like lost extraterrestrial invaders than like producers of clean energy.

The enormous towers made little noise, although when the sun fell slightly on the horizon, they cast long, eerie shadows, stretching all the way down to Havøysund below.

The 80-metre-high towers, together with the reinforced plastic blades, each weighed 250 tonnes.

And, when they were working efficiently, they produced about 120 gigawatt hours of electricity, five times more than Havøysund, population about 1,000, would use in a year/

The rest of this power was exported to distant consumers via the power grid.

Arctic Wind, a subsidiary of several power corporations in Norway, owned the $44 million wind park—and planned to recover its entire investment by 2014.

Looking out after the turbines was a staff of three, who spent most of their days scanning what was going on inside the towers from computer screens in an office. Regular maintenance was done on the turbines twice a year.

But Inge Lynghamar of Arctic Wind told me he sometimes had to scale a ladder in the middle of the turbines’ tower to fix a problem or to check on how they were running.

Lynghamar was a fan of his wind park: “This is pure energy,” he said.

And one that operated with few problems. The turbines were made to run for about 20 years without major repairs.

The main concern of the wind park’s guardians was the level of wind: when there was none, production dropped.

However, winds of more than 70 kilometres an hour could cause the turbines to stop, and it could take some time to get them back on line.

“The best speed is 41 to 50 km an hour,” Lynghamar said. “If you have a good and stable wind it really works.”

Temperatures along this Arctic coast line only dropped to -15 C in winder he said, but Lynghamar said the turbines could be fitted with a heating system to withstand the colder temperatures found in Canada’s Arctic.

The shadows from the windmills, with Havøysund below.

The Arctic Wind Park’s impact on the environment had been minimal, Lynghamar said. Birds didn’t even run into the park’s towers, although in other parts of Norway there had been some bird collisions.

Lynghamar said fishermen appreciated the towers because they could use them to see the direction of the wind was and how strong it was blowing.

“If it doesn’t look good, they go back to bed.”

And the Arctic Wind Park had also become a bit of a tourist attraction. When the park was built, a restaurant-café was built at the far end of the park to overlook the sea. That’s where I ate on the first evening I arrived in Havøysund.

But shadows from the towers did fall across Havøysund at some times of the day and during certain times of the year. Shadows from the turning blades of the turbines caused some people in some other communities to complain, but Lynghamar told me when that happened, the turbine blade responsible for the flickering shadow would be set to stop for a while.

In any event, shadows weren’t much of a problem in a region where there was constant sun in the summer and darkness for three months of winter.

The marina in Havøysund.

The sun was shining when I was in Havøysund. I was the only person staying in a small bed-and-breakfast. I decided to stay two nights. But when I woke up on the third day, it was pouring rain. I had no rubber boots with me. I decided to leave and head down the coast, hopefully to some sun.

Did you miss Part 1 and Part 2? Catch up….to be continued….