Canada Winter Forecast: Could Be Coldest in 20 Years for Western Provinces

October 12, 2011; 5:01 AM ET
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Photo by <a href="">Mattias Hammar</a>

It's going to be a cold winter across a chunk of western Canada. Several arctic air masses should come down through British Columbia and Alberta. This winter could be one of the top three coldest winters in the past 20 years for Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia. Edmonton, Alberta, will likely be in the deep freeze for the fifth consecutive winter.

"Most of the winter will be fairly typical from the St. Lawrence Valley region to the Greater Toronto area," AccuWeather Expert Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson said. "However, I do expect one or two major snowstorms to affect the region."

For Ontario, Toronto and Montreal, there will "certainly be a couple of blasts of arctic air coming down" to freeze the region, Anderson said. "That's typical of a La Niña, but [arctic blasts] don't last very long; they come and they go." There's "certainly going to be some bitter cold coming down there in the middle of winter."

The position the jet stream typically takes over Canada during La Niña.

La Niña is a phenomenon that occurs when sea surface temperatures across the equatorial central and eastern Pacific are below normal. The phenomenon often produces extreme cold outbreaks across western Canada during the winter due to the influence it has on the jet stream. Snowfall tends to be greater across Ontario and Quebec in a La Niña winter, while there's almost always unusually dry winter weather along the West Coast during weak and moderate La Niñas.

"Strong La Niñas can lead to wet winters along the West coast, but I am predicting a moderate La Niña this winter," Anderson said.

Across the country, "it's almost a given" that northeastern Canada will have a milder winter compared to normal. One reason for this will be the slow return of sea ice.

What about the snow?

The map with the number of predicted snowy days is supposed to be more representative of what the winter is like, than a total snowfall map. For example, just one or two storms can bring an area that doesn't typically get much snow more snow than what is normal for an entire season, while the bulk of the winter has little in the way of snowfall.

You'll see some forecasts predicting a cold, snowy winter in British Columbia, but Anderson said "it's either one or the other." Cold air doesn't hold moisture very well. If it's going to be snowy, especially in western parts of British Columbia, "it's usually not going to be terribly cold, especially in the mountains."

The past 10 to 15 winters have been drier than normal across the Prairies, and that's likely to be the same across a large part of the region this winter. The exception, though, is southwestern Alberta, which is good news for the winter sports enthusiasts down there.

A number of Colorado lows will lead to above-normal precipitation across parts of Ontario into Quebec. When it's snowy, it's difficult to get too cold. There will be cold blasts, but it will be difficult to get persistently cold in this area with this type of pattern.

It will be drier than normal in Newfoundland and southern parts of Labrador. Most of the Prairies will also get less snow than normal. Because the Great Lakes are running warmer than normal, the areas around it will have a greater amount of lake-effect snowfall as very cold air wraps in behind those Colorado lows.


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