Documents: Latest From: The Real Dirt:

Warm Weather May Continue
by John Harmon
November 3, 2002

Looking around Whitehorse it's hard to believe that October is over. The weather last Sunday was unbelievable, warm and sunny, and it carried on through most of the week. According to Bill Miller with the Environment Canada Weather office, "Halloween generally has snow on the ground. It was 1977 when the goblins and ghouls last went out without any snow on the ground and although 1998 and 1993 started out the day with only a trace of snow on the ground it snowed on those Halloweens and ended up with two cm and one cm on the ground. The greatest amount of snow on the ground was the Halloween of 1982 when the day started with 21 cm."

This October has been unusually warm and sunny. We had more hours of bright sunshine this summer than in most years and October was no exception. Bill explains that "A strong persistent upper ridge centered in the Gulf of Alaska has pumped warm air north for most the month. We set two new maximum temperature records, the first on the 16th when we hit 12.6 C this year beating our old record of 11.1 set in 1948. The second maximum record was set on the 20th with a maximum temperature of 11.7C breaking a record set in 1953 with a temperature of 9.4C. Three record high minimum temperature records were also set along with four record daily high mean temperatures. So far this month our mean temperature is running at 8.0 C or 3.7 degrees above normal and our mean minimum temperature is running at 0.4 C or 3.5 degrees above normal."

With all this nice weather and the absence of bugs it's been a great month for getting all those fall chores done but many gardeners are weary. In normal years the ground is frozen and covered with snow and area gardeners can sit back and take a well-deserved break by now. It's not often that we can attribute warm weather as coming from Alaska but according to Jeff Lowenfels, a columnist with the Anchorage Daily News, folks there are also experiencing a long warm fall. Jeff says, "if we don’t have a freeze, and a hard one at that, some of us in the lowlands might even have to mow one more time. I saw several folks doing just that last weekend".

Instead of talking about protecting your plants from the cold and snow gardeners can still transplant and work their soil. Soon we may be able to grow plants here that are normally grown many hundreds of miles to the south. This abnormal weather is once again being blamed on El Niño. For hundreds of years (the first available record date is 1567), South American fishermen have noticed the appearance of warm waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean along the coast of Ecuador and Peru. As the phenomenon typically becomes apparent around Christmas, the name "El Niño", or the Christ Child was eventually bestowed.

Even though many scientists knew about the warm water forming in the Pacific it wasn't until the late 1960s that it was linked to weather. A Norwegian meteorologist, Jacob Bjerknes, a professor at the University of California, established the connection between the changes in sea surface temperatures and the weak winds from the east and heavy rainfall that accompany low-pressure conditions.

The National Climate Prediction Center (NCPC), based in Washington D.C. provides the most up-to-date information on the status of El Niño through advisories and weekly updates. Check them out at:

The forecast is for above normal temperatures in the ten to fifteen percent range for coastal Alaska and the southern Yukon right through until next summer. Precipitation is also forecast to be in the same above normal range throughout the winter. Don't forget to brace up your greenhouse or cold frame just in case they are right and we get more snow than normal.

So next spring I'll try planting some plants listed as hardy to zone three and see how it goes. Maybe if this keeps up I'll eventually be able to transplant my coffee plants to the great outdoors in between the rows of banana trees!

John Harmon owns and operates Tropicals North. Write to John at The Real Dirt, c\o 211 Wood St., Whitehorse, YT., Y1A 2E4 or e-mail


  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row