Holiday storm looms as winter kicks off in Canada. What can we expect?

Click to play video: 'What to expect with extreme snowstorms across Canada, U.S. over the holidays?'
What to expect with extreme snowstorms across Canada, U.S. over the holidays?
WATCH: Snowstorms have already caused major damage across large swaths of Canada and the U.S., but how long is this extreme weather going to last? – Dec 23, 2022

Two storms in two weeks across Canada: is this a precursor to the upcoming winter?

The season officially begins Wednesday with the arrival of the winter solstice, and Canadians across the country will feel the wrath of another major storm ahead of the holidays. The system is so big that Environment Canada issued advisories and special statements for much of country on Tuesday.

Last week, Canadians dealt with the impacts of a massive system that brought winter storm conditions across western Canada, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada. Are these storms a sign of what winter will be like in 2023?

For one, said Global News Chief Meteorologist Anthony Farnell, this winter will be one of ups and downs in terms of temperatures.

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“I do think that will be a trend for the next few months, where we do get a lot of winter storms and snow chances, but we also see it melt rather quickly – especially as we go from Ontario all the way into Atlantic Canada where there hasn’t been too much winter so far,” he said.

“In western Canada, the Prairies in particular, that is the area where I think the cold will dominate this winter. It has so far with few exceptions, and I do see it returning.”

Storm moving across Canada as Christmas nears

As Christmas arrives this weekend, Canadians will feel the wrath of another winter storm.

In British Columbia on Tuesday, many woke up to see heavy snow that had fallen overnight. Parts of southern Vancouver Island had about 25 centimetres of snowfall, with Metro Vancouver seeing at least 15 centimetres. Environment Canada expected at least five to 10 additional centimetres of snow on Tuesday.

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A person hails a taxi as heavy snow falls in downtown Vancouver, late Monday, Dec. 19. Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

The snowfall forced Vancouver International Airport to temporarily suspend incoming flights and hold many departing planes at their gates. BC Ferries cancelled several sailings, and police in Abbotsford reported white-out conditions along Highway 1 through the Fraser Valley.

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In Alberta and Saskatchewan, many regions were placed under extreme cold warnings. Calgary is expected to see wind chill values of -40 C or colder throughout the week, while Regina was to have wind chill temperatures of -50 Tuesday morning, Environment Canada said.

Click to play video: 'Environment Canada issues multiple extreme cold warning across B.C.'
Environment Canada issues multiple extreme cold warning across B.C.

The storm impacting western Canada will move across the country into Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada later this week. The system will begin in southern Ontario starting Thursday, and it could be a “a particularly dangerous storm” in the region, said Peter Kimbell, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada.

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“It’s going to start as rain, possibly snow changing to rain in eastern Ontario. It’s going to be a lot warmer, but the severity of the storm is going to make itself felt in a flash freeze that we’re expecting later on Friday across southern Ontario when the temperatures plummet rapidly below zero,” he said.

“That flash freeze is likely going to make its way across eastern Ontario and into southern Quebec as well during Friday night, so it’s going to be very treacherous driving conditions across those areas.”

SkyTracker’s futurecast for an expected major winter storm across Ontario for Friday ahead of Christmas 2022. Anthony Farnell/Global News

Farnell said the system is also expected to bring heavy winds, which could result in power outages, and potentially “blizzard conditions” due to lake effect snow in parts of southern Ontario.

The storm will play out into Saturday as well.

With the holidays near, Environment Canada wanted to prepare Canadians early, who may have travel plans over the weekend, Kimbell added.

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“Anybody travelling by road in southern Ontario on Friday would want to seriously consider revamping their plans because it has the potential to be very dangerous driving conditions,” he said.

“I can’t predict what exactly the airlines will be doing, but I’m sure that there will be some significant impacts so people need to take that into consideration as well.”

How exactly will winter 2023 play out?

With two big storms impacting Canada in the dying days of fall, will this become the norm this winter?

“We expect winter storms during the winter time, so it’s nothing unusual,” Kimbell said.

“This one this weekend will be particularly severe with a very deep central pressure of very strong winds across Ontario, so this is going to be a particularly dangerous storm, but I don’t think it’s a precursor to the winter.”

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In fact, come New Year’s Eve, many parts of Canada will see temperatures above seasonal, Farnell said.

That trend will probably last through the first half of January, before shifting to a “very cold” end of January and a potential start to February as well.

This season will also be the third-consecutive “La Nina” winter Canadians have experienced, Farnell added. La Nina’s develop over the Pacific region due to colder-than-normal water temperatures and impact the weather pattern across Canada.

“Very rarely have we had three years in a row of La Nina,” he said, adding La Nina winters play out with similarities to previous ones; 2022 started with really cold weather across the country.

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Regardless of temperatures, winter will be in effect across Canada until the spring equinox arrives on March 20, 2023.

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