What happened to winter?
If you have been thinking that this winter so far has been a pale comparison of ones that have come before, you are right.
David Phillips, senior climatologist at the Meteorological Service of Canada, told the Advocate in a telephone interview that this winter has been warmer, wetter and greyer than what we are used to, and that this unusual winter weather could have significant impact on spring 2024.
Phillips said while numbers from February are not complete, so far this month temperatures on average have been almost seven degrees warmer than in winters’ past.
A daytime high of 13.8 degrees Celsius, recorded on Feb. 9 in Kawartha Lakes, shattered the existing record from 1925. Normal temperatures for Feb. 9 should have been more typically -3 degrees Celsius.
According to Phillips, January, often the coldest month of the winter, was almost 5 degrees warmer than normal at minus 3.7 degrees Celsius.
“December was 4 degrees Celsius warmer than normal,” Phillips added, “and while November’s temperatures were close to normal, we received much less snow, getting only one centimetre in November instead of the 15 centimetres that is more typical.”
“By mid-February we have usually had 12-13 days with temperatures below minus 20 degrees Celsius. So far there have been none in the Kawarthas,” Phillips said. “In a typical winter to this point we should have had 40 or more days with temperatures below -10 degrees Celsius. So far, we have only had 13.”
In regards to precipitation, Phillips points out that rain has taken the place of snow this winter.
“There should be between 30-40 centimetres of snow cover on the ground,” Phillips said. “Currently we have none and people are thinking it is time to head to the garden centre.”
Despite living in the snowiest country in the world, Phillips said that so far this winter the Kawarthas have only received half the snow we normally get.
“El Nino is keeping the polar vortex far up north and is pumping southerly air into our region,” Phillips said. “Last Friday and Saturday saw temperature records broken right across the province.”
Phillips added that winter so far in the Kawarthas has also been very foggy, overcast and lacking sunlight.
“Sunlight is very uplifting,” Phillips said. “There have been very few blue-sky days so far this winter. This winter has been too much like Vancouver, and we need to be reintroduced to the sun. Fifteen per cent of Canadians suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) (and this weather is very tough on those individuals).”
Phillips said that Toronto received more sunny hours in the first week of February than it received in all of December and January, and likely the Kawartha Lakes numbers are similar.
Phillips says that modelling for the rest of the winter season suggests “more seasonable weather is expected” but that if winter does return it will not nearly be as intense as past years with cold temperatures lingering for three to four days instead of ten or more days.
When asked about the impact this unpredictable winter may have on the spring and summer season ahead, Phillips suggests it could be a very mixed bag.
“The frost isn’t very deep right now,” Phillips said. “With no snow on the ground it will warm up quickly in March and likely water will run off or be absorbed rather than pool, lessening the chances of flooding this spring.”
Phillips points out that if Kawartha Lakes does get a cold snap with very little snow on the ground, it will be very hard on grass and shrubs and that winter kill could be more pronounced this spring.
Phillips is very hopeful that if our above average rainfall of a normal winter continues, Kawartha Lakes will avoid the drought-like conditions that may plague the prairie provinces and British Columbia this spring.