Canada Basked in Warmth this Winter

March 11, 2010; 2:27 PM
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A skier walks through the slush at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)

Even as much of the United States suffered bouts of punishing cold and record-shattering snowfall, nearly all of Canada basked in relative warmth during the winter of 2009-2010.

Warmth was most exceptional across the far north, where vast tracts of land usually host the nation's most bitter, harsh winter cold.

Temperatures 8 F to 12 F above normal spread over wide swathes of Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the sprawling vastness of Labrador and northern Quebec. This was also true as far south as Newfoundland and New Brunswick.

Farther south, there were enough cold outbreaks to hold average temperature departure to about 2 F to 4 F above normal over British Columbia, as well as the eastern Prairies, the populous heart of Ontario and the southern part of Atlantic Canada.

The Vancouver Winter Olympics were plagued by above-normal temperatures in February, with several event delays occurring during the stretch of the games. Men's and women's alpine skiing was postponed several times due to slushy course conditions.

In Toronto, Canada's biggest city, temperature departure for the winter was nearly 2 F above normal. Montreal was warmer than usual by more than 6 F.

A significant stretch of Alberta and Saskatchewan did eke out a normal to slightly colder-than-normal winter, mostly on the strength of a few record-smashing arctic outbreaks in December.

One likely cause for the overall warm bent to the winter was the same as the cause for abnormal cold over the central and southern United States; namely, the frequent occurrence of what forecasters call "blocking highs."

One persistent blocking high set up over eastern Canada and Greenland for much of the winter. It shunted the usual eastward flow of cold air across the continent farther south than usual.

At the same time, it steered mild air off northern seas into much of Canada where arctic air would normally be more dominant.

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