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High Arctic weather is more extreme than that encountered in other parts of the Earth. Cold temperatures and darkness are typical of the Arctic winter and, as cold air holds little moisture, most of the Arctic regions receive little precipitation. Thus, most Arctic regions are considered desertic or semi-desertic. During summer, the sun may shine for 24 hours, but the season nevertheless remains short and temperatures are only barely maintained above freezing.

The difficult climate that characterizes the High Arctic is the major factor limiting life of arctic organisms. Therefore, recording weather variables is important for biologists in order to understand the driving forces that influence arctic ecosystems. This becomes even more true when considering the degree to which climate change may potentially impact the Arctic.

On Bylot Island, a weather database has been collected by an automated weather station since 1994. This station, located at an altitude of 20 m above sea-level (ASL), possesses sensitive sensors that record, on an hourly basis:

    • air and ground temperatures (average, minimum, maximum)
    • solar radiation
    • relative humidity
    • wind speed and direction
    • thickness of snow cover

From these data, other variables such as the number of degree-days above zero and the number of frost-free days can be calculated. Summer precipitation is also recorded manually with the help of an instrument, called a pluviometer, that gathers rain into a graduated cylinder in order to read how many millimeters of rain have fallen.


weather station 20 m ASL in Qarlikturvik Valley - station météo à 20 m d'altitude dans la Vallée Qarlikturvik (1994) © Gilles Gauthier
weather station 400 m ASL - station météo à 400 m d'altitude (2001) © Denis Sarrazin

Since 2001, a second weather station has been established at an altitude of 400 m above sea level. This station will eventually allow comparison between climate regimes in the lowlands and the uplands.

We recognize that 14 years of data is a short time length to allow evaluation of climate trends. So in order to extend our temporal and regional coverage, we examined longer data sets from Environment Canada weather stations at the airport closest to our study site: Pond Inlet (Mittimatalik) and Nanisivik (near Arctic Bay).

Click on one region to view its climate description.