The Northwest Territories experiences a large range of temperatures between summer and winter. Most regions of the Northwest Territories have a sub-arctic climate, which means short, warm summers followed by quickly dropping temperatures in the fall. Summer temperatures typically range from 14 C to 24 C and winter temperatures stay between -20 and -40 C (and sometimes a bit colder, but it doesn’t usually last too long).
Winter may not officially begin until late December, but in most of the Northwest Territories, the snow season extends from late October to late April. In the coldest part of the season, temperatures range between -20 and -40 C, so it is important to be prepared. There’s a saying up here that there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing choices. That’s why it’s important to make good clothing choices for winter. This is also the time of year when people from around the world come to visit us to see our shimmering aurora as the winter brings dark and often clear skies.
Spring is a messy, short season in late April and May that features rapidly warming temperatures, melting snow and the beginning of the ice break-up on rivers and lakes. Temperatures range from -15 C to 10 C.
Sunglasses are useful as the days lengthen and the sun reaches higher in the sky and reflects off the still-present snow. Many days, you will still need warm coats, hats, mittens or gloves, and boots but not as heavy as those in winter.
As early summer arrives in late May, lighter clothes can be worn. Be prepared to wear insect repellant to keep the bugs away. In summer, a light jacket will do as temperatures in many locales reach into the mid to high 20s C. Summer is an energetic, magical time in the Northwest Territories and the season features very long days, including some in which the sun’s glow can still be seen at midnight.
Fall arrives rapidly and doesn’t last long. As the days shorten and the sun drops lower in the sky, be prepared for quickly cooling temperatures as September and October arrive. It is common to have the first snowfall in mid-October. Your warm spring clothing will be needed again for the autumn.