Northwest Territories



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About Northwest Territories


Two major climatic zones, the arctic and sub arctic, divide the Northwest Territories at the tree line into two almost equal parts. While both regions have extremely cold and long winters, the arctic climate has a shorter and cooler summer, with the average monthly temperature remaining below 10° C (50° F). The sub arctic climate has a longer and warmer summer, with at least three months having average monthly temperatures exceeding 10° C. During the long, cold winter, temperatures often reach -50° C (-60° F) in both climatic zones. Arctic blizzards and whiteouts frequently punctuate the winter weather. An arctic blizzard is a fierce snowstorm with intensely cold and strong wind. Within the Arctic, “whiteout” weather conditions can occur, causing a loss of depth perception. Under these conditions, pilots have great difficulty landing an aircraft.

The arctic climate is the most northerly climate in the world. It lies north of the tree line and is associated with tundra vegetation. In these frigid lands, summer may bring only a few warm days. With such a short summer, tree growth is not possible. Precipitation is low, often less than 100 mm (4 in), and most occurs in the summer.

A sub arctic climate prevails over the remainder of the Northwest Territories, particularly in the Mackenzie Valley. This climate is characterized by a much longer and warmer summer. While precipitation is low and summers are still relatively short, sufficient moisture (300 mm/12 in) and warmth make it possible for trees to grow. The sub arctic climate is associated with the boreal forest, a northern coniferous forest consisting of pine, spruce, fir, and larch.

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