Tuesday, March 14, 2006
The winter of 2005/2006 has been the warmest winter in Canada since the beginning of the nationwide weather record in 1948, with average nationwide temperatures 3.9°C above the long-term average. Statistically, such a strong deviation from the average is expected to be observed only once in 100 years.
While most of the country was experiencing temperatures of at least 2°C above normal, in most of Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories the temperatures were 6°C above normal, with some regions averaging up to 8°C above normal.
For this statistic the months from December through February were counted as winter.
Lack of ice in eastern Canada will probably affect the annual harp seal hunt, which typically starts around March 15. In February, so little ice had formed that Environment Canada reported that such poor ice conditions had never been seen before in recorded history. The last time conditions approached what we saw in February 2006 was in 1969. The year 1981 was the third lowest ice year in recorded history.
In 1981, a number of harp seal mothers, who normally whelp only on ice, went to the shores of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia and gave birth on land. That year, due to the lack of ice, hundreds of thousands of seal pups drowned. The seals who were born on land faced both natural dangers such as death by exposure, and the danger of death at the hands of thousands of sealers, both licensed and unlicensed. These sealers took this rare “opportunity” to walk right up to a baby seal and kill it. Some of these seals were also attacked by domestic dogs.