While the U.S. has been baking in a record-setting heatwave over the past few days, our neighbors to the north have seen set a dubious temperature record of their own. In Canada, the town of Alert –– which is known as the northernmost settlement on the planet –– saw the mercury climb above 70ºF (21ºC) in the dead of summer. That may not seem like much of a milestone, but when you realize that Alert has never recorded a temperature that high before, the implications of climate change on the Arctic begin to actually set in.
Alert, which is home to a Canadian military outpost and has a population of about 62 people, typically has an average temperature of around 45ºF (7ºC) throughout July. Considering its northerly latitude that’s what passes for summer in the high Arctic. And to put things in perspective, climate researchers say that Alert’s new record-high temperature would be roughly equivalent of Toronto reaching 107ºF (41ºC). In other words, it may not sound like an impressively high number, but for the folks that live in the region it is a scorcher.
The small community isn’t alone in this heatwave either. Most of the Nunavut Territory has been seeing unusually warm temperatures throughout the summer months. In fact, this summer is the first time that temperatures of 68ºF (20ºC) have been recorded on back-to-back days in Nunavut ever. The sparely-populated region has seen record high temps set in variety of places where weather stations are recording numbers that simply haven’t been felt at any time in the past.
By now, we all know that climate change is having a direct and lasting impact on the Arctic and this seems to be another indication that things are continuing to heat up. The ice extant in that part of the world is getting smaller with each passing year and the melt off is contributing to the rise of ocean levels across the globe. These stories of record-setting temperatures in the northernmost town in the world make for curious articles and headlines, but they are also the canary in the coal mine when it comes to raising the alarm on climate change. The problem is, not enough people seem to be listening for that alarm.