A Study of the Meteorological Conditions Associated with Anomalously Early and Late Openings of a Northwest Territories Winter Road


  • K. Emma Knowland
  • John R. Gyakum
  • Charles A. Lin




Northwest Territories weather, winter roads meteorology, interannual variability, regional climate


In the Canadian Arctic, winter roads are engineered across the frozen land, rivers, and lakes. The strength and longevity of these roads depend on particular weather conditions. Our research focuses on the winter road between Tulita and Norman Wells, Northwest Territories, which has been maintained officially by the territorial government since 1982. Statistical analysis of the opening dates for the winter road showed five seasons with extremely early dates and five with extremely late dates. The extremely early-opening seasons are distinguished by anomalously high sea-level pressures, anomalously cold tropospheric air, and northwesterly surface winds during the November prior to the road opening. The extremely late-opening seasons are characterized by an anomalously strong Aleutian low in the preceding November. The extremely late-opening years are correlated with strong El Niño seasons, whereas the extremely early-opening years are not systematically associated with teleconnection patterns. Our analysis of meteorological conditions near Norman Wells, associated with the extreme opening dates for this winter road, may provide planners with more precise information germane to this road construction.