Alert, Nunavut

Alert, Nunavut, is the most northerly inhabited settlement in the world. With coordinates 82°28' N, 62°30' W, it is only 817 kilometres away from the North Pole. Alert is located on the northeastern tip of Ellesmere Island (on Cape Columbia) in the Canadian Arctic. The area is approximately 100 meters above sea level. Alert, originally inhabited by the Inuit, was born as a joint Canadian, US weather station in 1950.

CFS Alert is a very abandoned and barren area with less than 200 personnel. The terrain in the immediate area is steeply rolling. The land here is frozen for almost ten months of the vegetation (polar desert). The vegetation that is found here consists of plants that can photosynthesize fast during the short summer so they will be able to survive during the cold, harsh winter. Vegetation is found mostly in moist areas of the barren land.

The ground around Alert has a layer of permafrost on it almost all year around which limits the growth and survival of many plants and animals. Along with the steep rolling terrain, it is common to come upon steep ravines and high cliffs. Plateaus at a high elevation in the Alert area are typical  physical features. Alert is a coastal settlement in which this coastal ground consists mostly of slate and shale rock. Overall with all these characteristics we can defiantly say that it is part of the Arctic tundra.

Climate data for temperature and precipitation (over the past 40 years) for the Alert weather station:



























Prec (mm)













This data was obtained from Environment Canada.


Alert experiences a continental climate that is characterized by very cold temperatures year round. The temperature range is 37 °C while the annual precipitation is 154 mm. This amount of precipitation occurs consistently throughout the year.

Factors that affect temperature:

Latitude- Alert is the furthest north settlement in the world (82 °N). Snow covers the land near Alert for almost ten months a year that will create an albedo effect. Its high latitude creates a bigger angle for the suns rays, therefore the temperature will be lower (less concentration of the suns rays). The high albedo and high latitude, creates conditions where temperatures are extremely low both winters and summers.

Air Masses- Alert is affected by the Continental Arctic air mass for most of the year. This air mass is the coldest air mass affecting any areas in Canada. In just a few months of the year Alert is affected by The Maritime Arctic air mass. The ice around Alert and other areas up in the extreme north are frozen for most of the year. This Continental Arctic air mass contributes to the low precipitation levels since it is so cold and dry. The Maritime Arctic air mass affects the areas in the summer months, when temperatures usually peak and rise above zero.

Altitude, Landforms, and Large water bodies do not have any significant impact on climate.

Factors that affect precipitation would be:

Air Masses: The air mass that affects this area for most of the year is the cold and dry   Continental Arctic air mass. When you have a continental air mass affecting an area it will have little moisture because it hasn’t been going over and picking up moisture from bodies of water. Therefore, there will be little precipitation.  Most of Alert’s precipitation comes in July, August, and September. This suggests that the Maritime Arctic air mass is affecting at that time.  

Land forms: The fact that there are no major landforms near Alert (that would alter the climates precipitation), means that this factor does not affect precipitation very much.

Latitude: Since Alert is far up north and the air is cold, air won’t pick up moisture as easily and as much (colder air doesn’t pick up or hold water very well). This is why there is little precipitation and most in the form of snow.  

Nearness to water- Since the ocean is froze over for a lot of the year this means that the air isn’t going to be very moist. Therefore, there will be less precipitation. In the summer time when the water is more exposed there may be a minimal increase in precipitation. In colder months when the Continental Arctic air mass is affecting the area, water is acting like a massive body of land (little moisture content because its frozen).

This projected was completed by: Matthew Croucher