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Mild, rainy winter expected as Canada warms at twice the global rate

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Winter will be unusually warm and rainy across much of the country this year, according to the latest data from Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Federal scientists presented a seasonal forecast on Friday that called for lower-than-average snowfall levels over large swaths of Western and Central Canada, above average levels in parts of the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Quebec, and average levels everywhere else. Parts of the country forecast to receive less snow should be prepared for more rain.

Above average temperatures are expected throughout December, January and February in "Atlantic Canada, parts of Quebec and parts of northern Ontario, the B.C. coast, parts of the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut," said Gerald Cheng, warning preparedness meteorologist at Environment Canada.

Environment Canada climate scientist Nathan Gillett said that while a strong El Nino is partially responsible for the mild forecast, "human induced climate change explains most of the observed winter warming in Canada."

The winter outlook comes as the world's top leaders are gathering in Saudi Arabia to discuss the impacts of dangerous planetary overheating as part of this year's United Nations climate conference.

The UN’s World Meteorological Organization confirmed in a provisional report that 2023 is set to be the warmest year on record, with global temperatures rising 1.4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

'DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD'

Canada is warming at roughly double the global rate, according to Environment Canada, and even faster in the north.

While some people rejoice over milder temperatures and lower heating costs, climate change is affecting the frequency, duration and intensity of extreme weather in Canada, and Cheng described warm winter weather as a "double-edged sword." 

"Warming in winter can have negative impacts on Canada, for example, through survival of invasive species like the mountain pine beetle, through making it harder to travel on ice roads in the north and further reducing snowpack which can have impacts on water resources in the spring and summer," Gillett said.

"When it comes to snowpack , there are implications when we don't have enough," Cheng added. "For example, if there is a deep freeze and there's no snowpack to insulate the crops, then it’s a problem for farmers."

PREPARE NONETHELESS

Seasonal forecasts deal with averages, and Gillett and Cheng warned that there is always a risk of severe weather such as snow, wind and freezing rain, even in an unusually mild winter.

"We still need to be weather-wise because we must live with the day-to-day fluctuations that weather brings," Cheng said. "To ensure you and yours are safe this winter, you can always go to (weather.gc.ca) for information regarding our winter weather alerts, cold weather health tips and winter driving tips." 

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