Summer-like weather smashing winter records
Published Monday, March 19, 2012 9:01PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 7:47AM EDT
There were jet skis on Lake Ontario and ice cream trucks on Ottawa streets as the March heat wave continued to melt records around the country.
For many, the last day of winter felt like midsummer as sun lovers donned flip flops in Winnipeg and rollerbladers invaded Toronto's waterfront.
The country's hotspots were Ottawa, Toronto and Winnipeg. Temperatures in the Prairie city shot to a sunny 22 C -- about 20 degrees higher than the seasonal norm -- smashing a 74-year-old record.
In Toronto, the mild spell drew droves of sun lovers to beaches and parks. Britt Connell told CTV Toronto that he moved to Canada last December from Australia, bracing for a brutally cold winter.
"I got all the horror stories early on, saying ‘You're going to freeze to death. All this bad stuff is going to happen come winter.' And so far I haven't seen it.
"It's looking good."
Weather records were also broken throughout southern Ontario, including in the Greater Toronto area, where it's been the warmest March on record so far.
Environment Canada climatologist Dave Phillips said records are not just being broken, they're shattering.
"It's the duration of it, it's the intensity of it and the fact that it is covering so much of the country makes it really a March heat wave that is unprecedented. It's just breaking and smashing records all over the place."
This winter has been the third-warmest since Environment Canada started keeping track 65 years ago and the second driest, Phillips said.
"From the first day of spring the kind of temperatures we're seeing are more normal for the first day of summer. That's three months from now," Phillips said. "I can't impress upon you how spectacular this kind of mild spell has been.
"This one has been like winter missing in action. This heat is like putting Canada, from Saskatchewan to Nova Scotia, under the sky dome. It's like a big dome that's right over top of us. It's like a greenhouse and it kept the cold air away. It's just getting warmer and warmer and warmer."
In Ottawa, temperatures shot to 24 C before noon, breaking the previous high by eight degrees.
For many Canadians, the warm spring weather has capped a mild winter, causing some to wonder if the weird weather is a one-off or a symptom of climate change.
"We are seeing these signs that are real and clear," the Sierra Club's John Bennett told CTV Ottawa. "The climate is changing. Global warming is a real thing."
The summer-like weather will continue in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia for most of the week. In fact, Toronto is expected to break another record Wednesday with a forecast of 26 C.
Unfortunately the warm weather has excluded Alberta and British Columbia.
Edmonton reached a high of -1 C and Calgary was close to seasonal at 2 C.
In Vancouver, where residents often boast of crocus sightings in February, snowplows were called in to deal with a rare snowstorm.
Along the Alberta-Saskatchewan boundary, forecasters expected some areas to get as much as 50 centimetres of snow.
Conditions were so severe in eastern Alberta that police closed the Trans-Canada Highway in both directions from Saskatchewan to Brooks, Alta.
With a report from The Canadian Press