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Environment
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Climate
Climatic conditions on Labrador Coastal Drive are strongly influenced by the cold ocean waters of the Labrador Current.The region lies in a climate zone with some of the most changeable weather in Canada. Warm and sunny summer afternoons can quickly be chilled by fog and mist just by a switch in the wind. Winter mornings may start out calm and clear only to see a blizzard by afternoon and then perhaps a soaking rain by night as a major weather system moves up the Atlantic Coast. Whatever the time of year, rarely does the weather go unchanged for a very long period of time.

The cold Labrador Current flows southward along the coast of Labrador and Newfoundland, traveling almost 35 km a day near the surface. This current brings with it huge quantities of cold water which carry icebergs southward to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream.

In summer, the ocean is colder than the air arriving from the southwest. July is a relatively wet period due to the active and changeable weather patterns. Fog is a frequent occurence over the Gulf of St. Lawrence especially in July and fog banks often enshroud the southern end of Labrador Coastal Drive.

The first frosts of the fall season usually occur in late September. The winter season brings frequent storms with heavy snowfall and strong winds from the southwest. The surface of the sea usually freezes in January and usually remains frozen until May. However, in 2004 and 2005 the Strait of Belle Isle remained blue all winter long. Spring season is often the best time of the year, with long spells of bright sunshine and relatively warm weather.
 
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Icy juniper (bletto) (larger version)
Weather Conditions at a Glance
Average summer temperature: 10C. The average daytime high in early-August, which is the peak of the summer season, is about 19C at Forteau and L'Anse au Loup, and 22C at Port Hope Simpson and Charlottetown. From day-to-day these temperatures can vary considerably. The hottest weather is usually found in the Lodge Bay to Norman Bay region, where highs in the thirties are typically experienced three or four times each summer. However, L'Anse Au Clair to Red Bay temperatures almost never reach the 30C mark.

Average winter temperature: -7C is an average daytime high in January, with temperatures dropping in the evening to an average low of -18C.Temperatures will dip as low as -30C about once or twice during most winters.

Average annual snowfall: 480cm. Snowfall varies from year to year, and has exceeded 600cm. Often our heaviest snowfalls occurs in March.

Average depth of snow: 150cm. However, due to drifting, some exposed barren lands will rarely see more than 20 or 30 centimetres of snow, while other areas may well see snow drifts of 12 or more metres high.

Average annual rainfall: 530mm. Early summer is usually the rainiest season, but it can rain any time in Labrador :-)

For current Labrador Coastal Drive weather information visit Stormpost.com
 
Geology
The geology of the Labrador Coast is unique and of interest to the amateur and professional geologist.

Structurally the area represents the exposed Eastern margin of the Canadian Shield and Lower Cambrian sedimentary formations referred to as the Labrador series.
 
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Strata
Locally, the Labrador series consists of two distinct formations, the Bradore Formation and the Forteau Formation. Units of the Bradore Formation comprise approximately 120 metres of interbedded sandstones, pebble conglomerates, very coarse red sandstones and quartzite. These beds form a disconformity with a red-pink granitic gneiss of the Canadian Shield. Fossils are generally absent in these units; however, tube-like worm burrows may be observed. The Forteau Formation lies conformably above the Bradore Formation and is comprised of approximately 60 metres of interbedded grey-red dolomites, dark-grey black shales, oolitic limestones and grey limestones. Of special interest is the presence of numerous fossils. The most interesting geologically are the Lower Cambrian archaeocyathid fossil reefs. These organisms, somewhat similar to sponges and corals, flourished in warm shallow Cambrian seas. Their basic shape was a deep cup or vase shape. The best exposed and most accessible of the fossil reefs are located at Fox Cove and in the cliffs below the Point Amour Lighthouse. Other interesting fossils include brachiopods, worm borrows, and several sub-species of trilobites common to the black shales.

There are numerous signs of glaciation in this region. The topography is dominated by the deep glacial valleys and the step-like terraces that form the valley walls and the sea cliffs. These features are the result of differential erosion by the ice shields and changing sea levels. The many large boulders seen scattered around the area are called "glacial erratics" and are further proof of the last glaciation.
 
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Iris
Flora
Many wildflowers which grow in the Labrador Coastal Drive are northern or alpine variants.

In sandy areas near beaches there are dwarf irises, beach peas, silverweed, harebells, purple vetch, oysterleaf and a yellow sunflower-like plant called beachside senecio. By the roadsides the most evident flowers are fireweed, buttercups, yarrow and cow parsnip.

Less common plants such as white fireweed, purple saxifrage, moss campion and willow herb may be found in some locations. On the barrens, Labrador tea, bog laurel, crackerberries, crowberries, blueberries and partridgeberries (also known as redberries or lingonberries) abound.

The southern Labrador is famous for its bakeapples, which grow in abundance in the bogs and wetter areas of the barrens. Bakeapples are red when they're "green" and ripen to a rich, sunset-orange colour. Partridgeberries are plentiful on some of the dry barrenground areas. Rarer but very sweet and flavourful are wild strawberries and stemless arctic raspberries or "plumboys". These don't grow in abundance, but a handful or two make a delicious snack while on a hike.

Local berries may be sampled in desserts and jams at our restaurants.
 
Marine Life
Whales are frequently sighted in the coastal waters during the months of summer and early fall.
 
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Humpback (larger version)
The most common large species of whale is the humpback usually seen in groups and noted for their classic roll and dive leaving their tail flukes in the air. Fin whales are more solitary than humpbacks, and are usually spotted alone or in small groups. Their main identifying feature is the tall, column-like spout of exhaled air when they surface after a dive. Smaller whales include pothead, minke and occasional killer whales. Porpoises and dolphins (known locally as "jumpers") are common.

The rocky shores abound with animals adapted to the ocean waves, such as sea urchins, limpets, mussels and starfish. On the sandy beaches are found creatures such as sandhoppers, burrowing and swimming crabs, clams, shrimps, and sand-eels.
 
Land Animals
Terrestrial mammals that can be spotted in the area include ground hog (known locally as the "Whistler"), otter, beaver, rabbit, muskrat and porcupine.
 
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Whistler
You may be fortunate to catch a glimpse of some of the predators found in the barrens -- fox, arctic wolf, wolverine, lynx, martin and black bear. Polar bears sometime drift south on icebergs from the high Arctic, and have been known to come ashore. Sightings of these magnificent, but very dangerous, animals should be reported to the local wildlife officer.
 
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Birds
Bird watching is a rewarding activity on Labrador Coastal Drive. There are two nearby bird sanctuaries, Gannet Island Ecological Reserve and Perroquet Island, the largest colony of Atlantic Puffin in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. As well, there are many birds that visit as they migrate up and down the Strait of Belle Isle.
 

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