Record highs forecast as 'winter that wasn't' wraps up
Published Wednesday, March 14, 2012 9:26PM EDT
After a winter that wasn't, Canadians in the central and western regions of the country are bracing for more record high temperatures.
Forecasters are calling for relatively balmy highs in a number of major cities Thursday, with the temperature expected to hit 21 degrees C in Toronto, 14C in Winnipeg, 14C in Calgary and 9C in Montreal.
Average temperatures in Calgary, Winnipeg and Montreal typically hover around the freezing mark this time of year, while the dial usually registers around 2C in Toronto.
Environment Canada senior climatologist Dave Phillips says the weather story's told in the jet stream -- the band of fast-moving air that typically rises over B.C., dips south to Texas and then blows north again through New England.
But, Phillips told CTV News Channel, this year the meteorological dividing line has shifted northward.
"It's almost as if somebody has taken the jet stream and stretched it like a bungee cord from Prince Rupert to Goose Bay. And everything north of it is cold, while everything south of it is warm. And it's been persistent like that," Phillips said in an interview Wednesday.
And the lack of snow cover across much of Canada has compounded the warm air's effect, he added, explaining that it hasn't had to do its usual job of melting snow or thawing icy ground.
Because there's been no frozen blanket to lift, Phillips said the warm air mass has been having the effect now that it normally would have six or eight weeks later in the season.
The result has been Canada's third-warmest winter in 65 years, and the hottest with so little snowfall.
"It's almost as if it's been a cancellation of the season that we're best know for," he said.
At the Blue Mountain resort approximately 90 minutes north of Toronto, operators of the popular southern Ontario ski destination have had a "challenging" season.
Not because they've had no snow, resort spokesperson Collin Matanowitsch said, praising the facility's snow-making equipment and personnel as the best in the business.
Rather, Matanowitsch told CTV News Channel his business has struggled to attract casual skiers who've been stuck in a "green winter" mindset.
"The casual skier is not really thinking snow right now. You know, they've been biking, hiking, walking and even doing yard work all winter," he said, referring to the atypical weekend activities would-be skiers have been getting up to in Toronto instead.
"Right now there are warmer conditions, but the work that we did throughout January and February has really got us through," he said, noting that temperatures did dip low enough then for snow-making efforts to still have an impact now.
While he doubts the season can come close to matching the early December to April run they enjoyed at Blue Mountain last year, he remains hopeful they'll still be open for business on Easter weekend this year.
And if Phillips is right, there's a good chance winter will make an appearance before then. Typically, he says most Canadian cities record at least 10 per cent of their annual snowfall in the month of March.