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Where's all the snow?

Lyndsay Morrison, staff writer
December 19, 2011 — Many cities in Canada have seen less snow than normal this month. Will it be a 'Green Christmas'?

Will it be a white Christmas?
Will it be a white Christmas?

If you think there's less snow than normal on the ground where you are right now, you're likely not imagining it.

“La Niña conditions are present this year,” says Elena Lappo, a meteorologist at The Weather Network, “and La Niña conditions always dictate what kind of weather pattern we're going to be seeing across the continent.”

“We haven't had a lot of snow in Canada this Fall,” says Rob Davis, another meteorologist at The Weather Network, “[and] it looks like a lot of people may see a 'Green Christmas.' It's not everybody's cup of tea, but it's reality.”

While there have been some noteworthy winter-like storms in parts of the country, most Canadian cities have had less snow than normal for this time of year.

In some cases, the numbers are significant. In an average December, Moncton, New Brunswick sees about 66 cm of snow. This year, there has been less than 10 cm.

“We've had a few rounds of storms in Atlantic Canada, but overall the region has been in a warm pattern,” explains Davis. “So in many cases, snow has been falling, but it's been too warm for it to stick around. So it melts.”

It's a similar situation in cities like Ottawa and Montreal. Normally, Ottawa gets about 57 cm of snow in December. This year, 9 cm has fallen. Montreal's average monthly snowfall for December is 48 cm. Only 2 cm have fallen this year.

Toronto's Pearson International Airport has only recorded 1 cm of snow in the Fall of 2011. Davis says it's partly because the lake-effect snow season has been quiet so far.

“It's hard to believe that at this time last year snow squalls had buried London and forced Highway 402 near Strathroy to shut down,” he says. “This year, mild temperatures have kept the lakes warm, but cold air hasn't been whipping across the region.”

A lack of cold outbreaks has also led to less snowfall than normal across the Prairie provinces. In fact, Edmonton didn't get it's first snowfall until November 12, which is late for the capital of Alberta.

Collingwood, Ontario hit 15 degrees on December 16. The normal temperature for that time of year: 1 degree
Collingwood, Ontario hit 15 degrees on December 16. The normal temperature for that time of year: 1 degree

While cities like Vancouver and Victoria generally don't get a lot of snow, both cities have had less snow than this time last year.

“Vancouver was hit with two significant snowstorms in November of 2010,” recalls Davis.

Still, not everyone in Canada is lacking snow. There's been plenty of it this season already in parts of British Columbia's Interior. Many of the province's ski resorts were able to open early as a result.

There has also been plenty of snow in northern sections of Ontario. In fact, some communities in the northeastern section of the province have already recorded more than 100 cm.

The snow pattern in the United States has also been slightly unusual this year. While cities that are used to snow, like Chicago and Buffalo, have been somewhat snow-free, states like New Mexico and Texas have seen several winter storms.

The likelihood of a white Christmas may be slim in some parts of the country this year, but Davis says the winter season is just getting started.

“Winter can be made in a few weeks,” he says. “It doesn't take much to change what that winter will be remembered for.”

In fact, he recalls January 1999, when Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman infamously called in the army to help clear snow from the city's roadways.

“At the start of that year, Toronto had no snow on the ground. By the middle of the month, there was 67 cm.”

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