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Weird winter weather continues

What's in store for the rest of winter?
What's in store for the rest of winter?

Andrea Stockton, staff writer

February 13, 2012 — Up until this past weekend, winter had been almost non-existent across much of the country. The weird winter weather is expected to continue for the rest of the season.

Return to milder weather in Toronto
Return to milder weather in Toronto

A powerful low pressure system that pushed into Ontario on Friday brought heavy snow, strong winds and frigid temperatures to parts of the province. Maritimers are also digging out from one of the most significant snowfalls of the season.

While some dreaded the return of winter, others embraced the frosty conditions. Especially since the wintery weather has been almost non-existent so far.

"What happened to winter?" and "Was winter cancelled?" have been common questions this year and for some areas, this winter could go down as one of the mildest on record.

"In the Toronto area since records began, this winter so far has been very warm and only surpassed by 2001-2002," says Patrick Cool, a meteorologist at The Weather. "So bottom line is, you're not crazy, it's definitely been warm."

Snowfall totals in several places are also much lower than normal.

One explanation for the warmer than normal season is the Arctic Oscillation (AO), which has two phases.

"A 'positive' phase is where the jet stream flows strong and far to the north thus "trapping" cold Arctic air near the pole," explains Cool. "And a second 'negative' phase results in a jet stream track much further south. This second pattern essentially opens the freezer door and allows the cold air from the north to spill southwards."

Within the last couple of weeks, the Arctic Oscillation dipped back into a negative phase, so what's in store for the rest of February?

"According to the computer model predictions, there seems to be an agreement that we're heading back to positive territory...It seems clear that warm conditions are set to return, at least for the third week of February," says Cool.

He warns that the lack of snowfall so far this winter however, is not guaranteed to continue.

"Significant later winter and early spring active weather is not uncommon, so don't be ready to write this winter off just yet."

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