Canada shed its Great White North image in 2012 as record warm temperatures, along with a hectic storm season and increased flooding dominated weather headlines from coast to coast.  As Canadians prepare to ring in 2013, Environment Canada's senior climatologist David Phillips breaks down the big weather stories of 2012: 

#1: The Big Heat: 2012 went down in the books as the fourth warmest year on record, and for 20 million Canadians from Windsor, Ont. to Quebec City it was the hottest ever, said Phillips.

“It wasn’t just about a fuzzy average temperature, it was about a winter that was cancelled, it was about the hottest of summers,” he said, adding July, August and September temperatures tied or broke a previous record for Canada. “Stick a thermometer in Canada -- it said ‘well done’ this year,” Phillips said. 

#2: Super Storm Sandy and another active hurricane season: By and large, Canadians were spared from the worst of Hurricane Sandy, which was downgraded to a Super Storm in parts of eastern Canada.  Phillips said in many ways, Sandy was the “biggest most powerful hurricane in Atlantic Ocean history”. But he said global warming or climate change shouldn’t necessarily be to blame for this extreme weather event. 

“There is a lot of bad luck involved,” he said. “It did a left-hand turn and headed right for the most vulnerable area in North America. You couldn’t blame that on climate change.”
Overall, an active hurricane season brought Canadians 19 named storms this year, 10 of which transformed into full-blown hurricanes.

#3: Large, long and lethal floodings in B.C.: High levels of early spring flooding wreaked havoc in British Columbia, creating landslides and forcing evacuations. Sadly, the extreme flooding also caused fatalities. 

#4: March's Meteorological Mildness: The old adage “in like a lion, out like a lamb” did not apply to the month of March this year, as an off-the-scale heat wave -- both intense and sustained -- gave Canadians a sneak peek at the summer heat that was to come. 

#5: Warm, wet wild summer on the Prairies: Phillips said this was one of the worst years on record for severe weather in the prairie provinces, including a record number of tornadoes in Saskatchewan.

#6: The Big Melt: Warmer temperatures across the country affected our cold North, as sea ice in the Arctic Ocean became thinner, weaker, and younger.

Other big weather stories of 2012 included a dry season in the East, where a lack of rainfall affected crop systems; costly floods in Thunder Bay, Toronto and Montreal; a hailstorm in Calgary on Aug. 12; and a historic ice-jam flooding on the Saint John River.

Phillips said while it would be difficult to peg 2012 weather as an example of global warming or climate change, Canada is clearly seeing a “different kind of weather situation” that fits a pattern cultivated in recent years. 

The climatologist “would bet money” on another warm year with active hurricanes in 2013. In the last 40 seasons, only four have been colder than normal, Phillips said. Since 1995, only two years have seen below-normal hurricane activity.