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Nunavut Capital Battles Heat Wave

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Iqaluit, the Nunavut capital, is struggling to de-ice its streets, challenged by temperatures that are running 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) above normal, the Nunatsiaq News reports.

The city had to shut down non-emergency operations on the morning of January 4 because of icy conditions, and Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern urged drivers to stay off the roads if possible.

Temperatures were hovering just above freezing the first week of January as they rose to 1.2 C, or 34 F. The highest for this time of year previously was –1.7 C in 1970, or 29 F.

A January 4 record was broken with a high of 1.5 C (nearly 35 F), breaking the 1969 record of –1.1 C (34 F), the newspaper said.

“The normal around this time of year is around –22 C (–8 F),” Yvonne Bilan-Wallace, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, told the newspaper. “So yeah, you’re way above normal.”

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Record highs are also being noted in Pangnirtung, which was at 8 C (46 F) on January 4, way above its previous 2002 high of –3.7 C (38 F). Kimmirut hit 1 C (34 F) on January 4, breaking a previous record high of —5.5 C (22 F) for that day.

Bilan-Wallace said these temperatures are part and parcel of the chillier-than-usual winter consternating Europeans (temperatures in their “Arctic” winter are also hovering around freezing). It’s all because warm air and storms that normally head east past Atlantic Canada and on toward Europe are instead hanging a left and heading north toward Baffin Island, Bilan-Wallace told the newspaper.

Accustomed to blizzards, Iqaluit road crews are finding it challenging to keep the streets passable. When rain covered the previous day’s sand, then froze, they couldn’t put down more sand until they had chipped the ice away with a grader.

Forecasts Jan. 4 called for temperatures to drop to around —10 C (14 F) by the weekend.

Environment Canada’s Bilan-Wallace said the rest of the winter in South Baffin should be colder, though still above normal. Iqaluit also saw a warm December, with temps averaging –8.4 C (17 F). In Edmonton it was —15.3 C (–4.5 F).