The Northwest Passage lies in the Arctic Tundra zone and its weather is typically polar, long cold winters and short cool summers. The northern limit of tree growth, which roughly corresponds with the 10ºC isotherm; where the warmest month has an average temperature no more than 10 degrees, are both well south. Even though the sun does not set during summer, its low aspect means that there is minimal warming. The average summer temperature for Resolute, at 74º north, is 7ºC, further north on the ice cap the average temperature is zero. During winter the temperatures are often below -30ºC with extremes to -50ºC.
Sea temperatures range from a comparatively warm 6ºC on the west coast of Greenland to 2ºC in the Arctic Archipelago. Anywhere where pack ice is present, the temperature of the sea in the vicinity is close to zero (sea water freezes at -1.8ºC).
The Arctic Archipelago is extremely dry and the islands at the north-west end of Parry Channel are technically classified as desert; precipitation is almost entirely in the form of snow which is only about 50cm per annum and as low as 10cm on Ellesmere Island.
Although winds are strong and persistent in winter, during summer the Arctic high pressure system sits over the region resulting in periods of calm and winds that are generally light to moderate in strength, with only occasional gale force blows.
One of our main concerns will be fog, which develops in pack ice areas due to the high humidity and temperature variations between ice and sea. On the west Greenland coast during May to August fog is reported on an average of 12 days per month and is often dense, reducing visibility to a few metres.
Click on the link buttons to see the current weather at various places along our route.