A skater warms her face with cloths as she makes her way along the Rideau Cana,l Tuesday January 21, 2014 in Ottawa. Environment Canada issued a special weather statement for the Ottawa region as temperatures dropped to -25C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press
Canadians hoping that March would bring relief from a frigid winter may be disappointed: Environment Canada is predicting that cold weather across parts of the country is here for a while, even as spring approaches.
From Saskatchewan eastward — including Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and most of the Maritime provinces — temperatures are expected to be colder than usual for this time of year. Temperatures in British Columbia and northern Canada are expected to be milder than normal, while Alberta is set to remain seasonal.
Environment Canada’s senior climatologist David Phillips said that even a balmy day in March could still prove to be a relief from the biting cold of January or February.
“Everything is relative,” Phillips told CBC News. “A day that was normal in January would probably be colder than a day below normal in March.”
Phillips also points out that in March, the sun is higher in the sky, providing more warmth during the day.
“Even on a cold day in March, you’re getting benefits from the sun,” he said.
Long, bitter winter
That may be little comfort for Canadians who have had to deal with cold snaps, ice storms and heaps of snow.
“In March, after enduring four or five or six months [of cold weather], you almost feel like enough’s enough,” Phillips said. “It’s frustrating. You almost get weather rage.”
Phillips said that from a statistical point of view, this winter has been particularly “impressive.”
Toronto, which suffered through an ice storm and polar vortex wind chills, saw its coldest winter in 20 years. There were 10 days where the mercury dropped below -20 C, which hasn’t happened in the last seven years.
This winter was also the coldest for Winnipeg in 35 years, and is the second-coldest stretch of frigid temperatures on record in 75 years.
Even Vancouver, known for its relatively balmy weather, is experiencing one of its coldest and snowiest Februarys in 25 years.
When it comes to wintry weather across Canada, “no one has been left out of the cold,” Phillips said. “It’s been tough for everyone.”
And there may be more tough times ahead: Phillips said 25 per cent of snowfall during the winter season typically happens after March 1, so there may be more snowy days still to come.
Emerging from the frost
The long, enduring winter will also mean a slow transition to springtime weather, since it will take longer to melt all the ice and snow that has accumulated. The frost line is also “very deep” this year because of the long-lasting cold, Phillips adds.
Even if psychologically Canadians are ready to put an immediate end to the winter season and bask in springtime warmth, Phillips said that in reality, we should hope for a slow and gradual defrost.
“We don’t want a rush to spring,” Phillips said. If the weather warms up too quickly and the snow melts all at once, he says we could end up facing another set of problems: flooding.
“What we want is maple syrup weather,” Phillips said, where the days are warm and the nights are cold.