It is the winter that refuses to go away in northern Manitoba and most of the eastern Arctic. Prolonged cold snowy conditions in the Hudson Bay area are expected to obliterate the breeding season for migratory birds and most other species of wildlife this year. According to Environment Canada, the spring of 2009 is record-late in the eastern Arctic with virtually 100 per cent snow cover from James Bay north as of June 11. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration images confirm snow and ice blanket all of northern Manitoba, part of northern Ontario and almost all of the eastern Arctic as of June 12. U.S. arieal flight surveys confirm the eastern Arctic has no sign of spring so far.
Six-foot snowdrifts still block Churchill-area roads. A thick blanket of snow, in places three- and four-feet deep, still coat 90 per cent of the local taiga in northern Manitoba. Ecotourists, who normally flock to northern Manitoba every June to see birds and other wildlife, have cancelled their plans this June "in droves," according to local ecotourist specialists. Snowy conditions are largely to blame.
Researchers confirm that the lateness of the spring of 2009 dooms local birds to a virtually complete reproductive failure. According to Robert Jefferies, professor emeritus of botany at the University of Toronto, the last time there was a late spring in northern Manitoba, in 1983, there was a total reproductive "bust" in lesser snow geese. Most species of birds did not nest at all. Aerial inventories of fall migrant geese from the eastern Arctic that year confirmed 0.005 per cent of the fall population comprised juvenile birds, compared to the normal figure of over 50 per cent.
Vegetation is also impacted upon by late Arctic springs, with green-up about three weeks late this year. Consequently, herbivorous animals have delayed breeding.
Recent late springs in the Hudson Bay area have been more frequent than normal: 2004, 2002, 2000 and 1997. According to NOAA scientists, although the Arctic is warming, more frequent annual oscillations in temperature are likely to occur, often resulting in late springs.