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Weather | Easter Long Weekend

Here's the REAL reason Canada often sees snow for Easter

Michael Carter and Dr. Doug Gillham

Thursday, March 29, 2018, 9:06 AM - The Easter holiday is often associated with images of spring with blooming flowers and budding trees, but Easter in Canada can have a much closer resemblance to winter, featuring snow-covered ground and a chill in the air. This is partly due to the fact that the date of Easter changes each year based on the lunar calendar, and it can fall anywhere between March 22 and April 25.

In this range, an "early" Easter can have an average temperature nearly 10°C colder than a "late" Easter in many parts of Canada. With Easter potentially falling on such a wide span of dates in the midst of the transitional spring season, there really is no such thing as "typical” Canadian Easter weather.

This year due to a combination of a relatively early Easter date and an outbreak of late-season Arctic air, cold temperatures will dominate the weather story for much of the Easter long weekend.

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The cold outbreak begins midweek, and by Good Friday winter-like temperatures will be in place across much of central Canada. Both Calgary and Regina will see high temperatures on Friday more than 15 degrees below seasonal for March 30, with Calgary at minus 9°C compared to an average high of 7°C and Regina at minus 12°C compared to an average high of 4°C for the date.

Milder Pacific air holds on for southern B.C., and near to above seasonal temperatures will linger in the east from southern Ontario across Atlantic Canada.


This week’s active weather pattern will continue as a late week system tracks out of the Great Lakes towards the east coast, and Pacific moisture brings rain to the Lower Mainland of B.C. and snow to the interior. Snow will spread across the southern Prairies on Friday as well, thanks to a developing clipper system.

The cold air continues to press in on Saturday, as a fast-moving Clipper pushes through the Great Lakes. Temperatures across much of central Canada continue to be well below seasonal. In fact parts of Alberta will see highs below typical values for Christmas, let alone Easter. The cold will be accompanied by gusty winds that will drive the wind chill values even lower.

By Easter Sunday, cold weather will dominate most of Canada, with near seasonal temperatures only clinging to the east and west coasts.

With a cold and active pattern forecast for the Easter long weekend, a large portion of the country will have the chance for a white Easter, with snow covering the ground on Easter morning. Some may even see flakes falling on Easter Sunday.

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Here's a look at the current snow cover across Canada as of midweek.

The cold and active weather of early spring has left significant snowpack across much of Canada, though many of our most densely populated areas, including southern Ontario, the Maritime coasts and the Lower Mainland of B.C. are largely snow-free. Snow cover across the southern Prairies is patchy for the time being, though that will change before Easter arrives.

With an active pattern and cold air on the march, some locations are likely to see fresh snow on the ground before Sunday. The most significant swath of accumulation will be associated with the clipper system, and the exact track that it takes will play a major role in who sees a white Easter.

Higher elevations in B.C. as well as much of southern and western Alberta will see snow Thursday night through Friday. Afterwards the system’s track will dive south towards the border. Beyond this point uncertainty increases. If the system stays further north, snow may creep into northwestern Ontario, including Thunder Bay. A more southerly track would increase the chances for snow in the central Great Lakes, including the Nickel Belt.

Lake-effect snow will also develop in the wake of the system on Sunday morning, disrupting travel across the snow belts.

The image below shows potential snowfall through Easter based on forecast model guidance. We'll continue to refine the forecast, and provide more specific amounts and locations as the weekend approaches.

For those wondering when true spring-like weather will take hold across Canada, you will have a bit longer to wait, as the cold pattern that develops over Easter weekend is expected to linger at least through the first 10 days of April.

Check back for updates as we continue to monitor the forecast.

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