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Was last February Toronto's coldest?

Was this past February the coldest on record in Toronto?


Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Sunday, March 1, 2015, 12:58 PM - It's not hard to believe that this past February was the coldest on record in southern Ontario, and it's been touted as such for Toronto.

If you're hearing that, it's likely because readings from Toronto's Pearson Airport definitely show as much, but Weather Network meteorologist Dr. Doug Gillham says the city as a whole has seen colder days.

"The average temperature [at Pearson] of -12.6oC shattered the previous record of -10.8oC set in 1979," Gillham says. "It should be noted, though, that in Downtown Toronto where we have a longer record of weather data, February 1934 was even colder than this year."


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In fact, it was so cold in February 1934 that Lake Ontario is said to have frozen over completely, the only time in 100 years this is said to have occurred ... although without satellite data, it's near impossible to verify that. The lake has not frozen over since the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration began keeping records in 1973.

"In many places with records that go to before 1934, this February will take second place to 1934 (such as in Ottawa)," Gillham says. "However, Timmins is an example of a city where this February was even colder than 1934."

Compared to last year, it's markedly cold as well: Four degrees colder than February 2014 and eight degrees below the long-term average for the month.

What sets this February apart from other years is not just the depth of the cold, but the duration.

"The last time that the temperature went above freezing at Pearson was January 24," Gillham says. "This gives us 36 consecutive days without topping 0oC. The longest such streak last winter was 16 days."

In all, it's the third longest sub-zero streak at Pearson since records began, and moving up on that unloved ranking isn't out of the question this winter.

Extreme cold weather has been blamed for several deaths in the GTA this winter. The last, three-year-old Elijah Marsh, was found outside in a t-shirt, diaper and boots.

The city of Toronto has issued extreme cold alerts 34 times as of Sunday, not far from the 36 issued over all of last winter. Numerous water pipes have burst from the cold city-wide.

As for what's to come, relatively milder temperatures are in store for the coming week, but the downside is they coincide with a period of snow, freezing rain or a rain snow mix. When the temperatures drop again after the passage of the system, that extra moisture will freeze, making for dangerously icy conditions.


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