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Canada’s far north under heat warnings amid ‘alarming’ rise in record-breaking temperatures

By Natasha O’Neill

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    Mississauga, Ont. (CTV Network) — Northern communities in Canada are smashing heat records this July creating concerns about the health of people and wildlife living there not used to such warm weather.

Multiple areas in Yukon and the Northwest Territories are facing higher-than-normal temperatures, breaking records that have stood for decades.

On Tuesday, Environment Canada issued heat warning for parts of Yukon and N.W.T. with expected daytime temperatures upwards of 29 C. The warnings stretch as far as Inuvik, N.W.T., which is 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle.

The heat is reaching parts of Canada with daily temperatures usually in the low 20-degree range.

Jesse Wagar, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada, told four of the five hottest temperatures ever seen in the N.W.T. were recorded in the last eight years.

“This is sort of the poster child for climate change,” Wagar said. “The rate of the warming in the Arctic is just incredible to watch year over year…it is alarming.”

Wagar said over the last 10 years of focusing on northern communities, she’s observed temperatures increasing at an “exponential rate.”

Due to temperatures increasing in the Arctic, Wagar said Environment Canada created a new specific heat threshold for Nunavut.

“We’ve never had a heat warning program for Nunavut before this year,” she said. “We’ve never seen a requirement for it but we recognized that the trends are there for the heat to increase…it’s just incredible.”

NORTHWEST TERRITORIES On July 8, Paulatuk, N.W.T. — located on the shores of the Arctic Ocean — broke its all-time daily maximum temperature record set in 1990. The community reached a temperature of 29.6 C breaking the 27 C record.

According to the Climate Atlas of Canada, a data organization sharing information on climate change, the area is expected to inch closer to 30 C temperatures.

The heat reaching the northern tip of N.W.T. is alarming for scientists as other communities across the territory are seeing even higher temperatures.

The community of Fort Good Hope, located on the Mackenzie River, set a new all-time daily maximum temperature of 37.4 C on July 8, breaking a previous 35 C record set in 1920.

“That is the hottest temperature recorded furthest north in Canada,” Wagar said.

Norman Wells, N.W.T. set a new all-time daily record of 37.9 C on July 8 breaking a previous record of 35 C set in 1989.

“Normally we see records broken by 0.1 degree Celsius or 0.2 degrees Celsius,” Wagar said. “These records are being absolutely smashed by several degrees.”

Norman Wells and Fort Good Hope recorded the fourth and fifth hottest days ever seen in the territory. The current record holder is Deline, N.W.T. with a record of 39.5 C set in 2015.

On July 4, Inuvik broke its all-time daily maximum temperature record set in 2001. The community reached a temperature of 33 C breaking the 32.8 C record.

Year-over-year July 2023 is breaking almost as many records as in 2022, but data from Wagar shows May was even hotter.

According to Environment Canada’s internal records, May broke 84 maximum temperature records compared to four at the same time in 2022.

“The outlooks for the rest of the summer continue to say high confidence of above normal temperatures for most of Canada, actually, but more specifically in the north,” Wagar said.

YUKON Environment Canada issued heat warnings for the Mayo, Yukon region including the communities of Carmacks, Faro and Ross River. The weather agency believes temperatures could reach 30 C.

“Temperatures will remain above seasonal again today,” the Environment Canada website reads.

On July 7, Carmacks broke its all-time daytime high maximum temperature record at 35.5 C with a previous record of 35.3 in 2004. This puts the community at the third hottest temperature ever recorded in the territory.

Further north, the community of Mayo holds the highest temperature record in Yukon which was set in 1969 with a temperature of 36.1 C.

Environment Canada told in an email three of the top five hottest temperatures in the Yukon have happened in the last 20 years.

For the first nine days of July, 17 high-temperature records have been broken in Yukon, which is seven more than the whole month in 2022.

It’s not just this month. In May there were 21 new records set in the territory, Environment Canada said.

ONTARIO, QUEBEC One record has been broken in July in northwestern Ontario, data from Environment Canada shows.

Big Trout Lake broke its heat record on July 2 with a new daily temperature of 31.9 C. The record previously set was 30.8 C in 2021.

In the Nunavik Region, in northern Quebec, the community of Kuujjuaq had two days in a row in early July when temperatures were higher than 32 C.

The area broke its all-time daily maximum temperature record on July 4 reaching a temperature of 34.3 C, breaking a previous record of 33.1 C in 1999.

Wagar says Nunavut has not broken any temperature records this month.

“Extreme heat affects everyone,” she said. “Everybody should be watching for the effects of heat illness like swelling, rash, and cramps. And then if you are recognizing any of those heat illness symptoms you need to make sure that you’re taking a break from the heat and getting out of the heat, whatever that looks like.”

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