The sun rises over the Mackenzie River in Fort Simpson on September 1, 2023. Emily Blake/Cabin Radio
Temperatures across the Northwest Territories are descending toward seasonal norms this week, a welcome break from a summer of sustained heat – and fires.
Huge fires still burn outside several of the territory’s larger communities, some now months old and driven not only by warmth but also this summer’s exceptional dryness.
This week, the forecast in Yellowknife calls for single-digit overnight temperatures dropping near to freezing on Monday night. The high for most of the week won’t exceed 15C, with the exception of a slightly warmer weekend to come.
Hay River can expect overnight lows of 6C to 8C with a daily high of 13C on Monday, rising to 17C by Wednesday and 20C at the weekend. The pattern is similar in Fort Smith.
At this time of year, the 30-year average high for the South Slave is around 16C and for Yellowknife, 13C.
This summer has been one of the hottest and driest on record. Yellowknife’s mean July temperature of 19.4C equalled a record set in 2012, while just 7.6 mm of rain fell that month – the lowest figure since 1964.
August’s mean temperature in Yellowknife, 17.1C, is an all-time record for any August in the city. It was the driest August in a decade, with 15.8 mm of rain.
Combined, those factors helped to exacerbate what was already a near-perfect environment for extreme fire conditions.
An evacuation of Yellowknife was triggered on August 16 as a wildfire burning west of the community drew to within 15 km of the city’s western edge.
Fort Smith and Hay River have been under evacuation orders since August 12 and 13 respectively.