Weather, hypothermia and frostbite

Sirmilik National Park

The polar marine climate means long, cold winters and short, cool summers. Although summer brings almost endless daylight from May to August, the sun is absent from the sky December and January. Spring brings strong winds and late summer is often cloudy. In winter, loss of daylight and the presence of sea ice can make for extremely cold weather.

Weather in the Arctic is notoriously changeable. Abrupt weather changes can affect sea and boating conditions forcing boaters to wait out rough waters, sometimes for several days. Be prepared for snow anytime, anywhere in Sirmilik! White out conditions are possible any time of year.


Hypothermia is a life-threatening condition. People with hypothermia can no longer keep themselves warm and cannot re-warm themselves without assistance. Know the signs and symptoms of hypothermia, how to treat it and take precautions to prevent its onset. Remember to take the windchill factor into account when evaluating temperatures.

  • Signs and Symptoms of Hypothermia

    • Shivering (may be absent in later stages)
    • Numbness
    • Lack of coordination
    • Confused or unusual behaviour
    • Body temperature below 35ºC (95ºF)

    First aid

    1. Remove any wet clothing and dry the casualty.
    2. Warm the person gradually by wrapping him or her in sleeping bags and dry clothing.
    3. If available, use heat sources such as hot water bottles or heating pads to assist warming avoid direct contact with skin), or use body heat.
    4. If the casualty is alert, give warm liquids to drink.
    5. Get medical attention as soon as possible.


Skiers, mountaineers and other winter and spring travellers must guard against frostbite when travelling in Sirmilik National Park. Conditions of extreme cold are common and care should be taken to avoid exposing the skin.

  • Signs and symptoms of frostbite

    • Shivering (may be absent in later stages)
    • Lack of feeling in the affected area
    • Skin that appears waxy
    • Skin that is cold to the touch
    • Skin that is discoloured (flushed, white, yellow, blue)

    First aid

    1. Cover the affected area.
    2. Handle the area gently - do not rub!
    3. Warm the area gently by immersing it in water warmed to 40.5ºC (105ºF).This may require melting snow on a portable stove.
    4. Keep the frostbitten part in the water until it looks red and feels warm.
    5. Bandage the area with a dry, sterile dressing. Avoid breaking any blisters.
    6. Get medical attention as soon as possible. Do not thaw the frozen part if there is a possibility of refreezing.

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