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Environment Canada predicts milder winter season this year

A woman is seen bundled up on a cold day in Toronto on Jan. 7, 2014. CITYNEWS

After being under the icy grip of the so-called polar vortex last winter, Environment Canada is predicting a milder season this time around.

In the weather agency’s winter outlook, released on Monday, senior climatologist David Phillips said this year Canadians can look forward to the El Niño effect.

Essentially, warm water near the equator will head to the Pacific and Atlantic regions, leading to milder conditions.

“It is weak, but regardless of its intensity, it still has an influence. You’re still going to get some of that Pacific air and not the polar vortex as much as we saw last year,” Phillips said.

The outlook, which is for December, January, and February, is the “final call on winter” but is updated every month.

“Canadians said we had too much winter last year. It went on forever,” Phillips said, adding that it was the coldest winter in 68 years of record-keeping.

British Columbia to Manitoba, parts of Atlantic Canada, as well as the Yukon and Northwest Territories, can expect to see warmer than normal temperatures.

“From Windsor to Quebec City, across southern Ontario, we’re calling for it to be kind of normal, seasonable … and not as cold as last year,” Phillips said.

Environment Canada's temperature prediction for the winter, which was produced on Nov. 30, 2014. ENVIRONMENT CANADA
Environment Canada’s temperature prediction for the winter, which was produced on Nov. 30, 2014. ENVIRONMENT CANADA

However, he cautioned this is a forecast and not a “guarantee,” adding that “there’s no such thing as guarantees of weather in Canada.”

“November might very well be the dress rehearsal of what we think winter will be like,” Phillips said. He said it was colder and snowier than normal in Toronto, but in between those “bouts of cold and snow, we got warm and rain.”

Environment Canada's precipitation prediction for the winter, which was produced on Nov. 30, 2014. ENVIRONMENT CANADA
Environment Canada’s precipitation prediction for the winter, which was produced on Nov. 30, 2014. ENVIRONMENT CANADA

It is also possible Canadians in parts of the country could be shovelling less snow. However, Phillips stresses it is difficult to predict long-term snowfall.

“Snowfall is always a tough one to get right,” he said.

“Nothing would surprise me when it comes to precipitation because the storms aren’t even born yet.”

Phillips said the central parts of the country will receive “near-normal” precipitation, drier than normal in Western Canada, although there will still be snow for ski resorts, and a little wetter than normal in Atlantic Canada.

“If it is milder than normal, what we might see this year compared to last year, we might see less snow in the Toronto area,” he said.

“We may see more of the ground. We went 100 days last year without seeing the ground because it was snow-covered. That’s not something you see often in Toronto.”

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