If you were to take a trip to the upper reaches of the Arctic Circle, you would probably not be expecting to, say, sunbathe by a pool in shorts. But these past few weeks you might have needed a heavier coat than you brought.
The area near Eureka -- a Canadian research outpost in Nunavut at 80 degrees North (See map) -- has seen a nearly unprecedented start to winter this month.
According to UW research meteorologist Mark Albright, there is already 7 inches of snow on the ground and the temperature Friday night dropped to 9 degrees -- its lowest August temperature reading ever and as far as I can tell, the third lowest August temperature reading ever recorded around sea level in North America. (The research post "Alert" at 82N has recorded late August temps of 5F and 8F on Aug. 31 and 30 according to their record lows). Certainly Eureka's 9F was the coldest August 24th temperature recorded in North America.
While we might picture the polar regions as a barren place where it snows 365 days a year amid sub-zero temperatures -- in the summertime that's not really the case. The average high temperature in August in Eureka is 41 and its average low is 33 -- don't forget the sun is up non-stop in August (until the 30th, its first sunset).
You might also be surprised to hear it's actually not that gloomy of a place either, especially in the spring. According to currentresults.com, Eureka is home to the sunniest month on Earth. In May, they average 512 hours of sunshine out of a possible 744 -- a combination of clear weather and plenty of daylight hours available. (They do get more clouds in the summer, allowing Sacramento to take over as sunniest city, but they "only" get about 400-440 hours.)
Eureka is also considered a "polar desert" -- with the air so cold, it can't hold as much moisture, and it's not like the jet stream hangs around up there. They average about 25 inches of snow a year -- September and October are their snowiest months. As for actual rainfall only (as in, not counting water from snowfall), it's just about 1 inch a year through the summer months when it's warm enough to rain.
But no August rain today, it's all snow. So if you're heading up that way, be sure to bring an extra jacket...
Or perhaps get a new travel agent :)