N.W.T. breaks warm weather records with 'spring heat wave'

Senior climatologist says the unseasonably warm weather is the result of warm air coming up from the U.S.

Temperatures may reach double digits in parts of N.W.T., says climatologist

Brendan Callas, a teacher at Mildred Hall School in Yellowknife, gathers a group of students together at the snow castle for a photo earlier this month. Unseasonably warm weather could impact how the structure is used this year. (Mark Hadlari/CBC)

Record-breaking temperatures are expected to arrive in the Northwest Territories this week.

In Yellowknife temperatures climbed above zero over the weekend, breaking a record high on Sunday with a temperature of 4.7 C, according to Environment Canada. The temperature on Monday in Yellowknife is expected to go above zero as well.

If the trend continues, Tuesday could climb up to 8 C. That would be a record high for that day since 1995's record of 1.2 C.

"And it's not just Yellowknife," said David Phillips, Environment Canada's senior climatologist. "It's across the entire territories. Up in that proverbial hot spot of Fort Simpson ... we're going to see double digit temperatures."

Phillips said the warm weather is thanks to a southerly wind blowing from the United States. Warmer than normal conditions are expected to continue for the better part of a week, and it will feel up to nine degrees warmer in the sun.

"This is clearly a spring heat wave for the territories," he said.

While the warm weather can be a welcome respite from winter's cold, some people will be less than thrilled should the warm weather hold. The territory depends on a network of winter roads for industry, commerce and recreation, while many residents in Northern communities rely on snowmobiles for travel. 

Snowking says wait and see

The unseasonably warm weather could also impact a long running winter celebration in Yellowknife: the Snowking Winter Festival.

For more than 20 years, Yellowknife's Snowking Tony Foliot has been the heart of a project that sees a resplendent structure of snow and ice built on Yellowknife Bay's frozen surface.

While the warm weather isn't expected to affect the integrity of this year's structure, it could mean temporary restrictions on how the building is used.

Tony Foliot, Yellowknife's Snowking, maintains cold weather optimism for the return of more seasonable temperatures. (Stephan Folkers)

"I'm not exactly happy with that, but what can I do about it," Foliot said.

"We'll be monitoring the situation. If it gets to be too mushy and kids are getting a little too rough with the stuff … we might just have to close down the slides."

It's a wait-and-see situation for Foliot, but he's staying cold-weather optimistic.

"I believe that what's going to happen is we'll probably just get another week of warm weather and then we'll finish out the month with some nasty, nasty cold weather just while people are coming back from their holidays in the sunny climes down south."

  This year's Snowking's Winter Festival runs from March 2-31.


  • An earlier version of this story mistakenly identified a group of students as being from Detah. In fact, the group was from Mildred Hall School in Yellowknife.
    Mar 20, 2019 12:17 PM CT

With files from Loren McGinnis and Mark Hadlari