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Winter third warmest on record


Idyllic winter scenes such as this one were hard to come by this winter.
Idyllic winter scenes such as this one were hard to come by this winter.

Daniel Martins, staff writer

May 9, 2012 — Environment Canada reports the last winter was the third warmest on record, and the second driest.

David Phillips, Environment Canada's senior climatologist, says that news won't come as a big surprise.

"That certainly would have been the buzz, really, from Alberta to British Columbia. It was almost 'winter: missing in action.'"

The national average temperature during the last winter season was 3.6 C above normal, based on records that began in 1948.

The warmest winter was the 2009/2010 season, which was 4.1C above normal.

Across Canada, the Prairie provinces had the balmiest winter. Temperatures there were around six degrees above normal.

Small areas of the B.C. coast, Labrador coast and northern Nunavut saw about normal temperatures.

But what made the last winter even more unusual, Phillips says, is the fact it was also the second driest on record, with precipitation 18 per cent below normal.

The Prairies and the northern parts of Quebec and the Northwest Territories were up to 40 per cent drier.

Phillips says the winter was not only warm, but consistently warm.

Less precipitation meant Canada's traditional winter activities --- beloved or otherwise --- weren't so common.
Less precipitation meant Canada's traditional winter activities --- beloved or otherwise --- weren't so common.

"Everybody kept expecting winter to hit hard, and it never did," he said. "I've been in this business for 40 years, and I've never seen a March like we've had this past March."

Phillips says the two winters which were warmer than the last one were within the last five years, something else of note.

Still, he's reluctant to predict the death of winter just yet, nor that the upward trend will continue.

"Next year, it could turn out to be back to the cold and the snow, but we know overall, the trend has been clearly for milder than normal winters," he says.

Nor can we know for sure whether the past winter bodes well or ill for the coming summer.

"We'll just have to wait and see if that is the case," he says. 

"We like our summers to be warm, and certainly there's some indication that we may see that this year, but certainly, if it is warmer, it won't be because the winter was so balmy."

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