Canada has had its warmest, driest winter on record
While parts of Asia, Europe and the United States have suffered through unusually cold and snowy winter months, Canada is emerging from its warmest and driest winter in at least six decades, a senior climatologist says.
Environment Canada, which classifies winter as December through February, hasn't yet released its analysis of the past three months. But the agency's senior climatologist, David Phillips, told CTV.ca that average temperatures reached an record high while precipitation levels dropped to a record low.
"Stick a thermometer into Canada, from coast to coast to coast, the average of the entire country has never been warmer and drier than in this winter," Phillips said in a phone interview. "It will go down as really record-breaking."
The agency's weather data goes back 63 years. Its analysis was weighted geographically, meaning it looked at the entire land and water mass of the country and wasn't skewed by densely populated urban centres.
Phillips attributed the freakish weather to a number of factors but singled out El Nino, a climate pattern from the tropical Pacific Ocean that he said encourages more powerful westerly winds.
Strong northerly winds above the Atlantic Ocean also kept frigid arctic air from descending farther south into Canada.
"In the high Arctic, they had absolutely balmy temperatures," Phillips said. "And really how the north goes, so goes Canada."
Although spring is still officially two weeks away, Canadians from coast to coast were being treated to the same type of mild, dry weather on Saturday.
From Iqaluit to Quebec City, temperatures were sitting above daily average highs for this time of year.
And except for St. John's and Winnipeg, the sun was shining from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. Even rainy Vancouver had clear skies.
In Montreal, the mercury was forecast to reach a balmy 10 C Saturday afternoon, more than six degrees above the city's average high for a March day, according to the agency.
The spring-like weather will to continue into next week in many parts of the country, according to Environment Canada's latest forecasts.
Philllips said that while the mild, dry conditions may make many Canadians feel good psychologically, it has already begun to cause problems in some parts of the country.
"There is virtually no ice. This is the lowest ice count in the St. Lawrence and off the coast of Newfoundland that we've ever seen," he said.
That's made Atlantic Canada's annual seal hunt much more difficult than usual, Phillips said. Arctic ice roads have also become difficult or impossible to maintain, which has in turn affected some diamond mines.
"The weather we may be blessing right now may be the weather we're cursing in the summertime because there wasn't enough moisture," Phillips said. "The water levels may be down, there may be drought problems."
"When you get something that's extreme, that's record-breaking, you don't normally hear the end of it until much later," he said.
"Even for climatologists, like myself, we scratch our heads wondering what's happening here."