January 7, 2014 2:30 pm

Will this be Canada’s coldest winter?

Watch the video above: Environment Canada’s David Phillips talks about Canada’s winter weather.

TORONTO – Many people across Canada may be struggling to remember the last time it was so cold — and for so long.

It’s definitely been a few years since Canadians have experienced a cold winter.

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Last winter was considerably mild for most of the country (aside from the Prairies), with a temperature of 1.6 C above the average. And one doesn’t have to go far back to get to the warmest winter on record: in 2009-2010, the national average temperature was 4.1 C above average.

Was this cold weather expected?

David Phillips, the Senior Climatologist at Environment Canada, said that so far the organization’s winter forecast has been pretty accurate.

“We didn’t issue our winter forecast until the 1st of December and it showed colder than normal for most of the country,” he said. “I think it showed milder than normal for the Maritimes, but for most of the country, it either was normal to colder than normal. And a good chunk of western Canada into Ontario was showing colder than normal.”

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VIDEO: Coping with the cold in Saskatoon

At the end of every month, Environment Canada tacks on another month to its three-month forecast. As December pushed along, bringing blizzards to Alberta and Saskatchewan, and frigid temperatures began to descend across the Prairies, the outlook for the rest of the winter began to change: The models show that winter is going to continue to be colder than normal across much of the country.

“In some way we were suggesting that it would be colder than normal but not this intensely cold,” said Phillips.

“I mean, we’re seeing temperatures that in December were in many cases in Ontario two to three degrees colder than normal. And on the Prairies we are seeing temperatures that are five to seven degrees colder than normal.”

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January started off to be just as cold across most of the country, primarily in the Prairies, Ontario, and Quebec, though there is a January thaw in the near future. Still, Phillips said, that may not mean much.

“Cold air begets cold air,” he said.

Since we’re not even halfway through winter, it’ll be interesting to see if we can beat the coldest winter on record, which was in 1971-1972 when the national average was 3.5 C below the average.

Though so far, Environment Canada’s outlook is accurate. Phillips served a reminder that forecasting isn’t an exact science.

“I would never go around and brag to people that we got the forecast right,” he said.

“You’re only as good as your next forecast. It could very well turn on us.”

Record winters across Canada

ProvinceYearTemperature (C)
Pacific Coast1950-4.8
Atlantic Canada1959-2.5
Great Lakes/St. Lawrence1959-3.0
Prairies1950-6.4
South British Columbia Mountains1950-6.2
North British Columbia Mountains/Yukon1969-6.6
Arctic Mountains and Fiords1972-4.2

© Shaw Media, 2014

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