Making it official brings summer weather

Winter came early and spring arrived late, but it seems Mother Nature finally checked the calendar and summer arrived right on time this week.

This week’s high temperatures could be a taste of what the rest of summer will be like, according to Environment Canada. On Tuesday, the weather office updated its summer forecast for July and August, predicting those months will be warmer than normal.

However, Dave Phillips, senior climatologist for Environment Canada, cautioned that they aren’t taking this forecast all the way to the bank.

“We don’t have necessarily a lot of confidence in that forecast,” he said.

To predict long-term weather trends, they use four different models, which they run twice a day for five days. Fifty per cent of those runs showed this summer would be warmer than normal; 25 per cent showed normal temperatures, and 25 per cent showed cooler temperatures.

In its initial summer forecast issued June 1, Environment Canada predicted June would be cooler and wetter than normal, which turned out to be the case. Usually the area gets some summer-like weather in early June, or even May or April, but most of June has been three degrees cooler than normal.

Last year it was excessive amounts of rain that caused trouble for farmers trying to get crops in from the fields; this year, cooler temperatures have slowed growth.

“You can certainly see it in the strawberries … and the water temperatures haven’t warmed up and the nights are rather cool,” Phillips said. “I think hay growers would like it to warm up, as most farmers and growers would, because things are just delayed.”

The upside of the cool spring has been fewer smog days; the Ministry of the Environment issued only one smog advisory before June 21, compared to 19 smog days in that period two years ago. As the mercury rises, more of those stifling days will be in store.

“It’s great for drinking beer on outdoor patios or for going to the cottage, or for going swimming, but there are also some downsides to [the hot weather],” Phillips noted. “Too hot can create health problems, energy problems, stress problems if you don’t get the moisture.”

If this does turn into a torrid summer, it will be part of a trend the past few years. The summers of 2005 and 2007 were both hot ones; even last summer was warmer than normal, although most people were focused on the persistent rain.

In the Great Lakes area, summers have warmed up about three-quarters of a degree over the past 60 years.

“It’s not as dramatic as some people think,” Phillips said. “People think every time there is a heat wave, this is climate change; well, no. We had heat waves back in the ‘30s and the ‘20s when people didn’t even breathe a word of climate change.”

While they can’t predict for certain whether this summer will be hotter or cooler than usual, meteorologists are more sure the next two months will bring some wild weather.

“We know throughout history that there isn’t a summer without severe weather in southern Ontario,” Phillips said. “We get 12 tornadoes a year on average, we have hundreds of thousands of lightning hits, we get hailstorms, we get flash flooding in the summertime, we get strong downburst winds and micro-bursts.”

The only thing they can’t say yet is when those events will happen.

“You’re lucky to get it right from one day to the next, let alone weeks ahead of time.”

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