Where's all the snow? Not as much white stuff in Iqaluit this January

People around Iqaluit and hunters have noticed there isn't as much snow as usual for this time of year. Data from Environment Canada suggests they're right, and the reason is likely in the jet stream over Hudson Bay.

Storms bringing snow to Baffin Island are late, but coming, says meteorologist

Geetaloo Kakee, a hunter in Iqaluit, says he's noticed that rocks are uncovered on the tundra outside town. It's not particularly unusual, he says, but it can be frustrating if a sled breaks. (David Gunn/CBC)

People in Iqaluit have been noticing something pretty odd for mid-January — there doesn't seem to be as much snow on the ground as usual.

After taking a look at data from Environment Canada, and talking to a hunter who's been out on the tundra, it looks like they're right.

On the tundra, hunters have noticed that rocks on the higher ground around Iqaluit are uncovered, when in most years they'd be covered by a hard layer of snow already, explained Geetaloo Kakkee, a hunter and spokesperson for the Amarok Hunters and Trappers Association.

"It's hard on the qamutiks [sleds] and snowmobiles," Kakkee said in Inuktitut. "I'm thinking about the high cost of repairing broken down snowmobiles. It gets difficult to travel on the land and the snow is not hard enough."

Kakkee says he's spoken with other hunters who've been unable to reach some of their usual spots because there isn't enough snow for their sleds. This isn't particularly unusual for Inuit hunters, he said, but it can get frustrating.

"It's a problem for both snowmobiles and qamutiks. The qamutiks get damaged," he said. "Sometimes when we want to go to a familiar place where we can enjoy the outdoors, it's harder to get to our destination."

Rocks on the tundra remain uncovered. Kakkee says it's not unheard of, but is unusual for January in Iqaluit. Data from Environment Canada suggests Iqaluit received about 2 cm less snow than usual between October and December. (David Gunn/CBC)

Though Environment Canada does not track how much snow actually accumulates on the ground, Iqaluit received about two centimetres less snow than average over the past three months, explained Brian Proctor, an Environment Canada meteorologist.

On average, about 8 cm of precipitation falls between October and December, according to Environment Canada. For those months last year, Environment Canada reported about 6 cm falling in Iqaluit.

October and November had about a third less snowfall than normal, but December started to make up the deficit by being twice as snowy as usual, Proctor said.  

Meteorologist Brian Proctor says storms from Hudson Bay that bring the most snow to Baffin Island did not develop early this winter, leading to a drier-than-normal October and November in Iqaluit. (CBC)

This was likely due to the jet stream patterns during the fall and early winter months, he said.

The large storm systems that develop around Hudson Bay and bring the most snow to Baffin Island have not yet happened, making for a relatively mild winter.

"In the initial parts of winter, we didn't see a lot of cold, we didn't see a lot of moisture coming in," he said, "So we weren't seeing those storms coming up from the south, which usually produce the biggest snowfalls for Baffin Island early in the season."

Weather models suggest this will likely change by the end of the month, with some big storms bringing in more snow closer to February, Proctor said.   

In the short-term, there doesn't appear to be much new snow on the horizon. Environment Canada's forecast calls for sun for the weekend and into next week for Iqaluit.


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