Grise Fiord is situated at 76 degrees, 25 minutes North, which is only 1,517 kilometres (943 miles) from the North Pole! At this High Arctic latitude, the climate and the seasons have unique rhythms. In the northern hemisphere the sun starts to return on Winter Solstice, December 21, and it peaks on Summer Solstice, June 21. However, the length of our sunlit summer days (and also our starlit winter nights) is extreme here so far above the Arctic Circle.
By April 8, the daylight does not totally disappear from the sky. Sunrise becomes hard to distinguish from sunset because it’s bright outside. The sky is clear nearly every day in the spring for days on end. You go to bed with the sun high in the sky and wake up with the sun still high and bright. The springtime months of April and May, with constant sunshine, lots of snow and solid sea ice, is a good time to travel long distances by snowmobile. The only thing stopping you is exhaustion. Everybody here enjoys the 24-hour daylight that lasts from May through to the end of August. It is the best time of year to be out on the land, to be with family members, to appreciate nature. The beauty of the High Arctic is truly extraordinary.
Arctic flowers thrive here even though the summer season is short. Their beauty compensates for their brief stay. Flora species include Pink Louseworts, Moss Campion, Purple Saxifrage, Fireweed and Yellow Arctic Poppies.
June 21, Summer Solstice, Canada’s National Aboriginal Day, is when the sun is highest in the sky. At the North Pole, the Summer Solstice sun circles around all day at 23.5 degrees above the horizon. Children and adults often stay up all night long, sometimes waking up at 9:00 pm and going to bed at 9:00 am. With no school during the summer holiday season, kids are often allowed to sleep in as long as they want.
The High Arctic is a Polar Desert. Precipitation is infrequent. By late June there is not enough remaining snow for snowmobiling on the land, but you can still travel on the sea ice. By the third week of August, the sunlight diminishes by a tiny amount each day. The average temperature rarely drops to the freezing point until early September. The freeze comes a few days later each year because of climate change. Yet, don’t be surprised by an occasional sudden snowfall in the middle of summer! It’s a normal occurrence in the High Arctic. Fresh snow accumulates throughout the fall season. By October you can drive snow machines on the land again.
The average temperatures up here are as follows: January through March -26°C; April -14°C; May -2°C; June through August +5°C; September -2°C; October -13°C; November -20°C; December -26°C.
With global warming it is now rare to have extreme cold snaps in the middle of winter, but it still happens. It is always best to be prepared for sudden cold weather events at any time of the year. Less extreme cold temperatures in the wintertime seem to be accompanied by more apparent light in the sky. It is common now to see a brighter horizon during the long dark season.
The unique lands of the High Arctic attract research scientists and university students in many fields of study including glaciology, archaeology, paleontology and geology. This amazing ancient place was once a tropical forest! Long before it became home to a still-thriving number of Polar Bears! The Polar Continental Shelf Program, based out of Resolute Bay, is a Federal Government logistics support program for field research in the High Arctic. Every spring and summer they run camps in this area. Any and all scientific groups seeking to study up here must first notify the nearest community. Applications are carefully screened before being recommended for approval.