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Winter Forecast 2017/18

'Classic' Canadian winter making a comeback: Details

Dr. Doug Gillham
Meteorologist, PhD

Monday, November 20, 2017, 8:13 PM - "As a whole, Canadians should expect a wild ride from start to finish,” Chris Scott, Chief Meteorologist at The Weather Network, says of Winter 2017/18.

"It's safe to say we’ll all be participating in winter this year."

An active storm track and a developing La Niña will help define the season. Read on for a full analysis of temperature and precipitation in your area. Plus, our experts have their say on whether an early spring is part of what Canadians can expect.

The Precipitation Picture

We expect that most of Canada will have above normal or near normal precipitation with the most active areas stretching from the Great Lakes to the Maritimes and southern Newfoundland and also from southern B.C. to southern Saskatchewan.

Visit our Complete Guide to Winter 2017/18 for a preview of the Winter Forecast, tips to survive it and much more.

Colder than normal temperatures are expected across a large part of central Canada with near normal temperatures expected for most other areas.

The Temperature Trend (and an Early Spring?)

The only regions where we expect milder than normal temperatures are across parts of northern Canada and across southern parts of Atlantic Canada. However, even in these areas we expect an abundance of winter weather.

Overall, we expect extended periods of high impact winter weather, but this winter as a whole will be characterized by changeable patterns rather than having a pattern that locks in for the majority of the season. 

Exactly what is La Niña, though?

• It is a large-scale climate pattern associated with cooler than normal water surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean
• It has the opposite pattern from El Niño, which is associated with warmer than normal ocean temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean
• No two La Niña events are exactly alike, but La Niña has a reputation for focusing the coldest and most active winter weather across Western Canada, with a more variable, but often milder and stormy pattern from the Great Lakes to Atlantic Canada

For most of the country this will include an extended period of milder weather – a longer than typical thaw for southern areas and a period of less harsh winter weather further to the north where seasonal temperatures are well below freezing.

Here are more specifics on the winter season for each region across Canada.

British Columbia 

Overall, this winter will not be as persistent or as severe as it was last year, especially for areas near the coast, where near normal temperatures are expected. Colder than normal temperatures are expected across the eastern half of the province. While winter weather started early in November, it looks like extended periods of cold weather will be more likely during the second half of the winter season with a tendency towards milder conditions during December.

Excellent ski conditions are expected for much of the season, but periods of milder weather could put a strain on North Shore ski areas at times, especially during December.

The Prairies

The Prairies will experience the harshest winter weather in the country with below normal temperatures and above normal snowfall for much of the region, especially across the south. However, the frigid pattern is expected to relax at times and above normal snowfall is good news for areas that experienced drought conditions during the summer.

Watch: STOP SCRAPING: How to Really Defrost Your Windshield

Ontario and Quebec

A classic Canadian winter is expected for this region with an active storm track bringing above average snowfall across central and southern regions. There is also a heightened threat for freezing rain at times across the south.

A stormy weather pattern could bring the Greater Toronto Area its snowiest winter in a decade. In fact, it is interesting to note that there are some similarities in the global weather pattern between this year and the winter of 2007-2008, which brought Pearson airport its snowiest winter on record.  The cold will be the bigger story across northwestern Ontario with colder than normal temperatures expected. However, the pattern will relax at times with an extended period of milder weather expected mid-winter.

Atlantic Canada

An active winter is expected across this region with above normal precipitation and near to above normal temperatures. Temperatures should still be cold enough for an abundance of snow and ice, but periods of milder weather and rain will keep the snowbanks from getting as high as they did during the infamous winter of 2014-2015.

Northern Canada 

Near normal to below normal temperatures are expected for Whitehorse and Yellowknife with near to above normal temperatures for Iqaluit. Milder than normal temperatures are expected for most of Nunavut. Most of Canada should see near normal amounts of snowfall, but below normal precipitation is expected for parts of the Yukon.

Early Spring?

While it is too early to have very much confidence in weather patterns for the spring, when we look back at years in the past that had global patterns similar to what we are currently seeing (such as a developing La Niña) there is a remarkable consistency – spring DOES NOT come early.

Of course a lot can change between now and then, but our preliminary thought it that most of Canada will be near or below seasonal during the month of March.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that spring WILL come early for Canadians in 2018. It has since been corrected to say it WILL NOT. We regret the typo (as I am sure you now do as well).

Watch: Can pinecones predict winter? The answer here

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