The winter temperature in Ontario may be close to normal, or a degree or two lower this year — but it won’t be as miserable as last year.
“Don’t be a shut-in, dress accordingly and be respectful of the weather, and it’ll be over before you can think of it,” David Phillips, Environment Canada’s senior climatologist, said on Wednesday.
“I don’t think you should be scared off by this winter. I wouldn’t hibernate or migrate. I would just accept it, enjoy it and embrace it,” Phillips said.
Environment Canada’s official winter forecast will be released on Dec. 1, the beginning of the three-month period the agency officially defines as ‘winter.’
But so far, Environment Canada’s models generally suggest that the winter will be more or less normal, he said.
It will be a winter of “less grumbling, more melting, a few more thaws and not that ice-age-cometh look and feel,” Phillips predicted.
Still, he cautioned, he has seen other models for this winter that are “a bit all over the place.”
“I would still only bet a couple of loonies on it. I wouldn’t bet the family farm or the fishing fleet on it — never should you, in Canada on seasonal forecasts,” Phillips said.
“But I feel very confident in saying most people will find this winter to be less difficult than they found last year.”
Canada’s winter fate will be decided in part by El Niño, the meteorological system that can cause surface water in the Pacific Ocean to warm and brings milder winter temperatures.
Environment Canada and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration both predict an El Niño system will develop in early winter, but it may be weak.
If that system is weak or does not appear at all, Phillips said, it could be displaced by colder Arctic air.
Last year, a lingering mass of Arctic air brought Canadians the coldest November to March period since Environment Canada began keeping records in 1948.
“It was cold and it was relentless, and there were no Pacific systems that came to kick it back up North. It just sort of hung out like an unwanted house guest and wouldn’t leave,” Phillips said.
AccuWeather senior meteorologist Brett Anderson said he expects some of that cold Arctic air to again move south.
“We will see some cold shots once again. But they’ll be quick — they’re going to move in and move out, not sustained, like we saw last year,” Anderson explained.
In Ontario, AccuWeather is predicting a mild, snowy December and a slightly colder-than-normal January and February, with less snow.
That could push storms further east and south, Anderson said, and could mean the East Coast will be hit with heavy weather in the middle and end of winter.
Warmer water near Atlantic Canada could give more energy to storms on that coast, which could reach inland to Western Quebec, Anderson said.
Pacific Ocean currents suggest the weather will be mild and dry in southern B.C., and wetter in northern B.C., he said.
AccuWeather also predicts winter across Canada will not last as long as it did last year, but also won’t end ahead of schedule.
Climate change made last year’s extreme cold particularly unexpected, Phillips said.
“Twenty or 30 years ago, last winter would have just been a roll of the dice. But it’s hard to produce a colder- and snowier-than-normal winter, because of climate change. Our winters aren’t what they used to be,” he said.
“For nature to produce one of those years last year, she was working overtime. It was just downright cruel, and wouldn’t be something you would see that often again.”
For those kept away from skiing, ice-fishing and snowshoeing by last year’s biting cold, this winter will almost certainly be better, Phillips added.
“We’ve never cancelled winter in this country. We have cancelled a few summers, but never winters.”