Regional highlights for the North for 2012

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Wicked Winter Storm across the NWT

A strong ridge over Alaska and an equally intense storm over Greenland set up a squeeze play such that powerful winds roared across the Arctic Islands and slammed into the coast of the Northwest Territories on January 17 and 18. Winds at Inuvik peaked at 100 km/h, while more isolating blizzard conditions endured for over 24 hours. At Norman Wells it was an even longer 38 hours, blowing any previous records for blizzard duration by 7 to 21 hours respectively. Winds took off several roofs, including the one at the Inuvik Airport, and lifted and shifted other items all around the region. Somewhere in the North there is a hot tub where it shouldn’t be!

Arctic Ice Roads

By March 1, ice thickness along the 600-km Tibbitt-to-Contwoyto winter road had reached 100 cm – thick enough to carry full capacity loads. However, periods of unseasonably warm weather prompted intermittent closures. On a few occasions, high winds, unseasonably mild temperatures and blowing snow temporarily shut down road operations, leaving some truckers marooned. Despite warmer-than-normal temperatures, all re-supply freight scheduled for the diamond mines made it through before the road closed on March 28 – a credit to those managing the transit route. The prolonged warmth also created issues with the construction of ice bridges and winter roads in the North. In Thompson, Manitoba fewer than half the number of days with minimum temperatures below -20°C occurred resulting in critical food and fuel shortages for northern residents when ice road openings were delayed.

Floods Cut Yukon Supply Lines

Heavy spring rains in early June combined with a rapidly melting snowpack in the Yukon mountains caused flooding along the Liard River. Ensuing mudslides and washouts forced road closures along the Alaska Highway. The blockage knocked out critical supply lines leading to serious food and fuel shortages for several days. Owing to rising water levels, officials began evacuating hundreds of residents in a region encompassing Upper Liard, Yukon, Lower Post, British Columbia and Nahanni Butte, Northwest Territories. Phone and internet services were also cut to the communities, and ferry services on the Liard and Mackenzie rivers were halted in places due to high water levels and debris. At Lower Post, waters from the Liard peaked at 1.9 metres above the flood level – a full metre more than the previous high-water mark recorded 40 years ago. Some residents were kept out of their homes for two and a half weeks; others lost their homes.

Funnel Cloud, Tornado or Both?

On July 19 at 9:30 p.m. photographic evidence from a cell phone was taken of a funnel cloud near the Inuvik Airport. This was one of the most northern sightings of a funnel cloud anywhere in the world.

The Great Arctic Cyclone of 2012

In early August a very strong cyclone developed over eastern Siberia and strengthened rapidly over the central Arctic Ocean north of Alaska. It reached near-hurricane wind speeds and, at its peak on August 6, covered two-thirds of the Arctic Ocean. The storm brought warm winds and in the end was likely responsible for a very rapid loss of ice in the western Arctic. On three consecutive days, sea ice extent dropped by nearly 200,000 square km per day.

Iqaluit’s Record September Rains

The remains of Hurricane Leslie brought up to 36 mm of rain over three days to Iqaluit, Nunavut. It was just one of several September storms that poured on the territorial capital during the month. By September 30, monthly rainfall totalled 150 mm – almost 100 mm more than normal, the greatest amount ever recorded in September and the second wettest month in over 65 years. Six days with rainfall over 10 mm occurred when the normal is one.

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