TORONTO – One of Canada’s leading weather watchers has bad news for anyone hoping to avoid the deep freeze of last winter — you’re probably out of luck.
The Weather Network’s winter outlook for Canada is calling for conditions that prevailed a year ago to be more or less repeated across the country.
Chief Meteorologist Chris Scott is forecasting colder than average temperatures from eastern Saskatchewan through to New Brunswick.
He says the rest of Saskatchewan, Alberta and the other Atlantic provinces should brace for wildly swinging temperatures that average out to near seasonal norms.
The 2013 winter weather pattern is expected to repeat in British Columbia and the Territories, which means those regions can expect warmer than normal conditions for the next few months.
Scott says these general trends will take hold starting in January and he expects December will be a time of more erratic temperature swings across the country.
“We’re not locked into winter just yet. We think that December is going to have a rather different personality to it than January and February,” Scott said in a telephone interview.
“We’re seeing signs that December is going to be a very tumultuous month. A lot of roller-coaster weather patterns, ups and downs in temperatures. That’s a continuation of what we’ve seen so far in November, and this is right from coast to coast.”
Scott said Canada’s winter conditions will be shaped by water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, which he described as the “engine that drives the atmosphere.”
The waters from just off South America to the central Pacific are currently slightly warmer than usual, a condition known in meteorological circles as El Nino.
Strong El Ninos typically result in warmer than average winters, but Scott said weak ones like the 2014 version historically have the opposite effect.
“Our team went back and looked at all the years where we saw the ocean temperatures lining up with what we’re seeing right now in the late fall, and most of those winters were cold ones really through the eastern prairies, through Ontario and Quebec, exactly where we’re forecasting that below normal condition this winter,” he said.
Scott acknowledges that the forecast will likely come as a blow to residents of these regions who shivered their way through sometimes historic lows and battled through unusually significant snowfalls throughout last winter.
But Scott said they can expect some relief in terms of precipitation. While he acknowledges that such things are harder to predict, he says early prognostications place the storm track further south than it was last year.
This means storms are likely to be more concentrated over the United States and leave areas like the prairies comparatively unscathed, Scott said, adding precipitation levels are expected to be in the seasonal average range.
The forecast is less certain for areas on the edges of that projected storm track, he said, including southern Ontario and most of Quebec.
“If we go back and look at … where we saw a similar type of weak El Nino, it can go one of two ways,” he said. “We can either get a lot of snow in Ontario and Quebec, or we can get a meagre snowfall and get it more in the northeastern U.S.,” he said.”
Northwestern New Brunswick may be included in the areas set to cope with higher precipitation levels, but Scott said the rest of Atlantic Canada should prepare to see snowfall levels stay near seasonal averages.
Albertans will likely be dealing with seasonally average snowfalls, but British Columbians are expected to see a repeat of 2013’s low precipitation levels, he added.
Scott said Canadians from coast to coast can be forgiven for feeling a sense of deja-vu at this seasonal outlook, but said that likely won’t last as the winter progresses.
“There’s definitely going to be times this winter where the weather pattern will resemble last winter. It’s not, though, that it’s going to be an exact repeat,” he said. “We do think there’s a little more variability. There’s a little more in the way of ups and downs.”