WATCH: A mass of Arctic air has settled over much of North America. While parts of western Canada have gotten a slight reprieve, extreme cold warnings are in effect for many parts of Ontario and Quebec. Jennifer Tryon reports.
TORONTO – There is no doubt that it’s cold. Everywhere. Is this a replay of last year where the words “polar vortex” sent a chill down your spine even if you were inside?
The answer is: it depends on where you are.
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Okay, we’ve only just started what is typically the coldest month of the year across Canada, that is true. But January 2014 was the beginning of a brutally cold and long and largely unforgettable winter.
If you’re in Calgary or Edmonton for example, and think it’s colder than last year, you’d be right.
From Jan. 1-6, 2014, the mean temperature in Calgary was -8.7 C. This year? -14.3 C. That’s largely because of two very cold days on Jan. 3 and 4 when the daytime high was just -20 C.
And in Edmonton, the situation is similar: during the same period in 2014, the mean temperature was -15.6 C. This year it’s -20 C. Again, that’s due largely to four days of highs near -20 C and lows that reached -30 C. Keep in mind: the city’s normal daytime high is -8 C.
But good news for those in Regina. It’s almost 4 C warmer than last year’s mean temperature of -24 C. And that’s even with a low of -35.8 C on Jan. 4.
In Winnipeg, what a difference a year makes. During the same period the mean temperature was -26 C, while this week it’s -22.8.
And then there’s Toronto, a city that isn’t quite as used to the cold as the rest of Canada. This year it’s been -5C in the first six days of January, while in 2014 it was -10C.
And in Montreal the mean temperature these past few days have been almost 10 C warmer than 2014 when it was -15.3 C.
You don’t have to be too worried about things staying this way: temperatures look to return to normal over the next few weeks, even above normal in some parts.
“Everybody in Canada has had a taste of winter,” said David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada.
The coldest part of winter typically occurs in January across the country: in Vancouver, it’s the early part of January; for Alberta and Saskatchewan it’s mid-January; in Toronto and Montreal it’s the end of the month; while in the Atlantic it occurs in the beginning of February.
So what’s with the cold?
“It’s not rare, it’s not a conspiracy. It’s being what nature tends to be. The good news is that it’s not persistent,” Phillips said.
“If you look ahead, you see something different than we had last year,” Phillips said. “What we’re seeing is, yes, we’re in to the Arctic air. These temperatures are memorable from last year. But they’re not as cold, and what’s missing is the duration of cold… Canada is not as cold as it was last year.”
The models show the next two weeks show close to normal. And looking even further ahead, Phillips said that the models are showing all of the southern parts of the country to be warmer than normal January into February.
And let’s remember that December 2014 was far warmer than December 2013. Maybe it’s just a matter of taking our lumps and dealing with our rollercoaster of Canadian weather. After all, we’re the Great White North, right? Or maybe we should be called the Great Cold North. The Great Frigid North?
Well, at least spring is just two and a half months away.
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