Spring arrives after warmest winter on record in Canada. Here’s what to expect this season

Environment and Climate Change Canada is reporting the country's warmest winter on record, and it was certainly felt in Toronto. Michelle Mackey details the drivers behind the unusual warmth and the spring outlook.

In what was dubbed the lost season, spring has arrived, but it’s not without some concerning weather trends and patterns after the warmest winter on record for Canada—and it is certainly being felt in Toronto.

Environment and Climate Change Canada released its latest numbers and the factors driving the unusual warmth.

“First, it was El Niño, the elephant in the room. It was supercharged and super-sized. It came early, and it was sort of dying out there in December and February, and that is when people thought winter was going to hit us in the new year, but it never came,” said David Phillips, Senior Climatologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Phillips notes that oceans were also warmer than usual, particularly in the North Atlantic, which helped warm up the winter across the country.

“There’s climate change. There is no question about it; our seasons are different. Old timers are right when they say our winters are not what they used to be.”

The numbers prove it. Looking at meteorological winter, a three-month period from December to February, Phillips confirms that Canada was more than 5 C warmer than average—1.1 C warmer than the previous record set in 2009 and 2010.

In Toronto, the average daytime high this winter was 3.4 C — well above normal and unusual given past seasons.

The effects of climate change and a look at what to expect this spring

The latest data from Environment and Climate Change Canada follows similarly daunting statistics that show Canada’s air pollution levels last year were worse than those in the United States for the first time since an air-quality firm started publishing its assessments in 2018.

While the report found Canada, on average, still has some of the least polluted air, public health experts have repeatedly warned about the health dangers of more intense wildfire seasons fuelled by human-caused climate change.

water splash in close up photography
Snow begins to melt and usher in spring in Toronto. Photo: Unsplash.

Meanwhile, the local effects of global warming are significant. Less snow means less water to irrigate farmlands and replenish reservoirs, and less ice coverage on the Great Lakes means greater shoreline erosion during winter storms.

Phillips also touched on what to expect weather-wise this spring.

“March is going to end up lion-like. We had lamb-like at the beginning, and it will be lion-like in the second half,” Phillips explained. “In terms of our spring, April, May and June, we see it as warmer-than-normal.”

To put Toronto’s lack of snow in perspective, the city typically sees 108 cm of snow in a typical winter. This year, Toronto recorded only 45 cm.

With files from The Canadian Press

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