Winter Forecast: Classic Canadian winter welcomed home
Visit this Winter Forecast Guide to the Season for the Winter Forecast, cold weather tips and more.
Wednesday, December 21, 2016, 2:57 PM - It's a return to the classic Canadian winter weather this year, a sharp contrast to the exceptionally mild winter season Canadians witnessed in 2015-2016.
That means widespread temperatures near or below seasonal normal, along with an active winter storm season for many. Exactly where will the flakes be flying, and who has the best chance for an occasional thaw? Read on for all the details on the next three months, in our 2016-2017 Winter Forecast.
Below normal temperatures are expected to dominate the upcoming winter across central Canada, including the Great Lakes and eastern Prairies. While outbreaks of arctic air will bring extended periods of bitter cold to the middle of the country, we do not expect the cold to be anywhere near as extreme or persistent as it was during the memorable winter of 2013-2014.
THE SILVER LINING
If there is a silver lining to the forecast, it’s that we should see a more progressive pattern this season. That means there will be periodic breaks in the cold, and even the occasional thaw across the south. However on the whole, we expect below normal temperatures for the season for cities like Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, Toronto, and Ottawa.
Out west in British Columbia and Alberta, temperatures overall will be near normal for the season. Though arctic air will be less common than in central Canada, we will see occasional arctic outbreaks for the western Prairies, interior BC, and even the coast. But that should be balanced out by periods of milder Pacific air at times. Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, and Edmonton are among the cities that can expect near normal temperatures for the season as a whole.
In Atlantic Canada, significant swings in temperatures will occur throughout the season, driven in part by an active storm season (more on that later). That means the Maritimes and Newfoundland will experience occasional surges of milder air out of the south, but as systems pass and winds turn northerly, we’ll also see periods of arctic cold. These back-and-forth swings in temperature through the winter should roughly offset each other and result in final numbers that are near normal for cities like Fredericton, Halifax, Charlottetown, and St. John’s.
If you’re looking for signs of warmth on this map, you’ll have to direct your attention to far northern Canada. Locations such as Whitehorse, Yellowknife, and Happy Valley-Goose Bay are among the few in Canada who can expect above normal temperatures this winter. Although keep in mind that these forecasts are all relative to climatological averages, so even though these regions will be above normal, anyone seeking to escape winter weather will still have to travel well south of the border.
Temperatures are one part of the seasonal story, but precipitation – and especially snowfall – plays a key role in how severe a winter feels. Here’s a look at the precipitation pattern, in what we expect will be a very active year for storms overall.
Beginning in the west, the storm season got off to an early start this year, with frequent systems and a nearly constant stream of Pacific moisture impacting British Columbia. This active pattern will continue through much of the winter, bringing overall precipitation totals to above normal in what is already the climatological rainy/snowy season for this region.
This year’s pattern should be favorable for ski areas in the Rockies, where snow should be abundant. Coastal resorts should also fare rather well, but they will be susceptible to rising snow levels at times when milder Pacific air surges into the region. The Lower Mainland will see greater potential for snow than in recent seasons. It is interesting to note that several years in the past with similar weather patterns to our current pattern also had memorable periods of winter weather in the Vancouver area. However, we cannot assume that similarities in the pattern will produce the same results.
Looking to the Prairie Provinces, we expect near normal snowfall to dominate, with localized areas having the potential to stack up above normal totals depending on the tracks of individual storms. Above normal snowfall should be more prevalent in the foothills and high prairies in Alberta, where upslope flow should enhance snow amounts.
ONTARIO AND QUEBEC
For southern Ontario and Quebec, a snowy winter is on the way, with considerably more precipitation than last year. This will be particularly true in ski country and throughout the lake effect snowbelts, where lingering warm lake water temperatures will provide ample fuel for lake effect snow squalls late into the season.
Frequent winter storms are likely for the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Valley, thanks to an overall active storm track. However, since snow totals here will be highly dependent on the tracks of individual storms, parts of the region outside of the snowbelts could see snowfall numbers that underachieve. In addition, some storms will also bring a variety of precipitation types (including rain) to the region.
The active storm season this year will also impact Atlantic Canada, but wide variations in the storm track will occur – meaning that some storms will turn up into the Great Lakes, while others cut out to sea. Variability in the storm track means a wide variety of precipitation types throughout the season, with snow, ice, and rain all on the menu. The variety of storm tracks should also keep snow totals and the depth of snow on the ground well below what we saw during 2014-15 and 2013-14 seasons.
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