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Insider Insights: Articles

Temperature maps show the high and lows of summer 2014 in Canada

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By Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter
Tuesday, July 29, 2014, 8:59 AM

After enduring one of the harshest winters in recent memory, Canadians are now faced with a summer season that will be remembered for its unseasonably low temperatures in places where heat waves are the norm, and vice versa for some of the traditionally cooler spots.

To better demonstrate, we've looked at the numbers, and it's certainly not been as warm as the summer of 2013, especially when drilling down to the metric of days where the temperature has been above 30oC.

In Eastern Canada, for example, the number of days above that threshold is in the low-to mid-single digits for Ontario and Quebec.

"It's not that it hasn't happened before, but it certainly puts us in the minority of years," Weather Network meteorologist Doug Gillham says.

Gillham says part of the reason is the upper air pattern that affected North America during the last winter is actually still in place. It's not winter-like cold because of summer's longer days and higher sun angle, but it has still contributed to cooler than average temperatures in Canada's two most populous provinces.

Compounding that is a cooler and wetter summer in most of the United States (with noticeable exceptions such as California). Even when air masses to move into Canada from the United States' heartland there's been an absence of hot, dry air.

"Air masses have just never had a chance to bake in that part of the country before they come into Canada," Gillham says.

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Even so, although the map above does seem to show fewer than usual 30 degree days, it hasn't actually been drastically below seasonal. 

There have actually been a few days where daytime highs have stopped only just short of the 30-degree mark, feeling warmer than 30 due to humidity. And days where we have crossed that threshold have usually come in their ones and twos, a contrast to the previous two summers.

"The summer hasn't been that unusual, we just haven't had these heat waves. We haven't had four or five days in a row of 30 degree days," Gillham says.

When you look back at summers over the past few years, it's been quite variable in terms of the number of days above 30. Between 1999 and 2011, there were four years where there were 16 days of 30-plus in the month of July.

"There's a lot of feast of famine."

Looking east, Gillham says not to be fooled by the lack of days above the 30 mark. The Maritimes have been above seasonal, and Newfoundland especially has been above seasonal.

In fact, although Newfoundland doesn't typically get many days above 30, St. John's is having its warmest July on record, with more days above 25oC than Toronto.

"Relative to normal, they've seen the most extreme variation," Gillham says.

In the west, meanwhile, it's been a mixed bag.

On the Prairies, temperatures have been back and forth, but have averaged below seasonal in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, while Alberta has been above.

Edmonton, at zero days above 30oC so far this summer, may seem to stand out, but Gillham says Edmonton, much further north than most other Canadian cities, rarely reaches that level in any case.

In B.C., it's a different story, especially in the interior. Although temperatures there have ebbed and flowed, they have been consistently the highest in the country, and dry as well.

Gillham says it's not unusual to see that kind of weather in the interior, but it has, in fact, been around three degrees higher than average in some areas.

That, coupled with below average rainfall during May, June and, July, has made for a dangerous wildfire season, with tens of thousands of hectares scorched.

HOW DID WE DO? Take a look back at our summer outlook to see how the season has stacked up in comparison.

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