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Friday, 28 October 2016

Is it Time to Pay our Winter Weather Dues?

Joanne Kennell, Meteorologist, CatIQ

As we near half way through the fall season, most of Canada, with the exception of Saskatchewan and Manitoba (sorry!), has been pretty fortunate in terms of not receiving a major snow storm or snowfall. And luckily, what is left of autumn will continue to be fairly good to Canadians. Temperatures will remain at or above normal in all of the provinces and territories except Newfoundland and Labrador. However, that doesn’t mean we won’t see cold and/or snow episodes before winter hits, because as all Canadians are aware, winter loves to give us a taste of what’s to come.

Ontario knows this first hand thanks to a Wednesday overnight and Thursday morning snowfall. It is a not-so-subtle reminder that winter is not far away. However, this bout of Ontario snow will be short-lived (thank goodness… I am not quite ready for snow), as temperatures this weekend are set to hit nearly 20oC in some regions!

Overall, Canada has been quite spoiled in terms of temperatures. We had a fairly mild 2015-2016 winter and a balmy spring, followed by an extremely warm summer and our current warm-ish fall.

So, is it time to pay our weather dues?

Both the Farmer’s Almanac and weather models agree that yes, this weather honeymoon is over. Canada’s upcoming winter will be reminiscent of the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 winters past. If you don’t remember those winters, let me remind you in two words: ICE COLD. This is bad news if you hate the snow and cold, but this is great news if you are an avid skier, skater, ice fisher, snowmobiler, you name it.

Let’s break down how winter will unfold across the county.

Looking to the west, British Columbia and parts of western Alberta will remain relatively mild and wet. The Prairie Provinces will likely experience some pretty frigid temperatures (likely the coldest in the entire country). However, they will experience below average snowfall. Don’t get me wrong, they will still get snow, and probably a lot of it, just not as much as previous years.

Most of Ontario and Southern Quebec will experience below average temperatures and lots of snow. And since the Great Lakes will remain warm for some time into the winter season, a lot of Ontario’s snow will be driven by lake effects.

Now, Atlantic Canada is expected to receive a “Classic Winter”. What this means is that provinces will receive a normal amount of snow and normal temperatures. And thanks to the warm Atlantic Ocean, some storms that develop could result in significant ice accumulation.

Why do we think this? Let’s look back to the winter of 2013. On December 20th, a moisture-laden mass of air resulted in significant icy precipitation across Ontario, Quebec, and all the Atlantic Provinces. In Toronto, 43 hours of freezing rain occurred, while Trenton received over 55 hours of freezing precipitation. In Quebec and the Maritimes, surfaces were covered with ice 10 to 30 mm thick, and since temperatures remained below freezing, a lot of this ice remained for almost a week.

So, will there be a repeat ice storm this season? It is too early to say, but the right ingredients are definitely going to be there - it is just a matter of them mixing together properly. Let’s just say Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Ontario will remain an area of interest for CATs this winter.

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