No-snow winter? What Canadians should expect for the rest of the season

Click to play video: 'Winter weather arrives in Canada with deep freezes and snow accumulations'
Winter weather arrives in Canada with deep freezes and snow accumulations
WATCH: Winter weather arrives in Canada with deep freezes and snow accumulations – Jan 7, 2024

As we coast into January after an often balmy December, many Canadians may be asking: where’s the snow? Turns out, they may not have to wait much longer.

Global News chief meteorologist Anthony Farnell says after seeing the warmest December on record across the country, January will see a change in the pattern.

“It’s going to start in the West, that’s where the cold and snow begins, but then I think as the month progresses, we’re going to see widespread cold and snowy conditions across much of the country,” he said.

The lack of both has put a damper on many winter activities from coast to coast.

In Quebec, despite its southern region being hit by a major snowstorm in early December, rainy and warm weather washed away most of the 30 centimetres that fell. It’s also washed out any plans for outdoor ice rinks in Montreal and other municipalities.

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Skiers in Manitoba also struggled, with grainy and icy snow making it difficult for cross-country enthusiasts to enjoy the paths.

Ski hills have also faced problems, with several reporting fewer than half their tracks open to the public during the recent holiday season.

The lack of snow is not necessarily surprising given the presence of El Niño, with Farnell having forecast last month that nearly the entire country would see milder weather through much of December.

Click to play video: 'Planning a ski trip? Canada’s mild winter keeps fewer hills open'
Planning a ski trip? Canada’s mild winter keeps fewer hills open

As for the blast of cold previously forecast to hit around the holidays, well, that has changed slightly, Farnell said, but the cold is still “definitely coming.”

“The big question is, does it stay?” he said. “Does it have staying power?”

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The answer is a bit mixed, Farnell says. February could see some milder air creeping back into the country, though it will be a “very active” January in terms of weather.

El Niño or something more?

El Niño sees warmer-than-normal water impacting the jet stream and weather patterns around the planet, leading to milder and less snowy winters in Canada. The weather pattern also becomes more variable, with wild swings in temperature and an increased potential for ice storms in parts of central Canada and bigger snowstorms in the Maritimes.

But with the much warmer December than normally seen, there may be questions of how much of an impact comes from El Niño or other factors.

“It was so extreme, though, that you question whether it’s all El Niño or if maybe climate change is playing a role,” Farnell said. “I do think that has added to the warming, but now we are getting some typical winter conditions (that) are going to last for a while.”

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He noted we could see -20 to -30 C in the Prairies, and even some -15 C days in places like Toronto despite what’s been a mild winter season so far.

Even though it looks like snow is in the forecast, Farnell cautions it’s still going to be a shorter winter given where we already are in the season.

Click to play video: 'Snow-lacking season challenges Winnipeg skiers'
Snow-lacking season challenges Winnipeg skiers

As for whether there may be a decline in the amount of average snowfall Canada sees, Farnell notes that’s still in “flux,” adding that snowfall patterns can span years before reversing course.

“Some cities are actually seeing as much or even a little bit more snowfall than we used to get,” he said. “But one thing that is changing with the ups and downs in temperature, that snow that falls, it doesn’t stick around and it often will melt almost as it lands.”

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So while some Canadians may be hoping for snowy weather, Farnell notes the colder conditions that stick around long enough for winter fun could be less reliable moving forward.

“We do get these cold bouts and it can stick around for weeks, but we’re in Canada after all,” he said. “(The Prairies) are still going to have very snowy winters.”

“It’s places like Toronto into Ottawa, Montreal — remember the Rideau Canal didn’t even open last year because of mild conditions … it’s that type of thing that I think we’re going to have to be accustomed to going forward.”

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