Iqaluit's weird weather wreaks havoc

Record-breaking warm temperatures and rain in Iqaluit are creating problems for residents who are more used to –20 C and colder at this time of year.

Record-breaking warm temperatures and rain in Iqaluit are creating problems for residents who are more used to –20 C and colder at this time of year.

Nunavut's capital city, along with other communities on southern Baffin Island, have broken weather records this week, with daytime temperatures above 0 C.

The mercury reached 1.2 C on Monday, then hovered just over 0 C on Tuesday, breaking highest-temperature records on both days, said Yvonne Bilan-Wallace, a meteorologist with Environment Canada.

But the mild conditions and accompanying rain have resulted in ice-slicked streets in Iqaluit, forcing schools and Nunavut government offices to close for parts of Tuesday and Wednesday.

Municipal crews that are used to plowing snow at this time of year are instead battling the rain in their attempts to put sand on slippery streets, said Arif Sayani, Iqaluit's acting public works manager.

"When you have rain, it mixes with the sand, then it freezes," Sayani told CBC News on Tuesday. "Whatever sand you've put down is no longer effective."

Meanwhile, flights to and from the city have been delayed or cancelled amid foggy and icy conditions.

Lingering storms to blame

Iqaluit is poised to break the highest-temperature record again on Wednesday, as it's forecast to reach 3 C. The current record is –3.3 C, set in 1970.

The normal daytime and nighttime temperatures in Iqaluit are –22 C and –30 C, respectively, at this time of year. In past years, it has been as cold as –41.8 C on Jan. 4 in the Nunavut capital,  Bilan-Wallace said.

She said the mild spell is the result of storms passing through the United States and the Canadian Maritimes.

"Instead of continuing off towards Europe — which is kind of in a big chill right now — all this warm air in these storms are veering to the north and northwest, and to the west of Greenland, which is unusual," she said.

"It's not unusual to see little pieces of storms or some occasional storms come into the Baffin area, and you get this nice period of warmer air … But what we're seeing is a very stagnant weather pattern since November, December."

It has been even warmer in Pangnirtung, another community on southern Baffin Island. Bilan-Wallace said it reached a balmy 6 C there on Tuesday, breaking the highest-temperature record for that day.