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A white Christmas and colder weather likely lie ahead

We can expect not only a white Christmas, but chillier, more traditional weather as winter makes its official entrance today.

Still, this won’t be your parents’ winter. And certainly not your grandparents’.

The cold weather is likely to be front-loaded, with conditions getting a little milder as winter rolls along, suggest weather guru Dave Phillips.

“I think December has given us kind of almost a little bit of a preview, a dress rehearsal of what we are going to see for the rest of the winter,” said the Environment Canada senior climatologist.

“We have had some cold days – my gosh, we have had some temperatures that have gone down to in your area minus-21 and minus-17 the next day, and right now we are dealing with a temperature above the freezing mark, so it is a little bit of back and forth. I would bet maybe even my government pension on the fact that this year, this winter, is going to be colder than the last two winters.”

He points out that predicting trends days ahead is tricky enough – a white Christmas is likely in the cards – with the forecasting getting even more fuzzy weeks and months out.

“We have already had a taste of winter in your area – there was 12 centimeters of snow sitting on the ground – and I think there is a good, good chance of a white Christmas,” he confirmed. “Although we see some warming temperatures hovering around the freezing mark and the possibility of having some rain, so, you know, it’s always a touch and go.

“It depends when it chooses to precipitate. It depends on the temperature – if it is below freezing, well, then you’re going to get the snow. If it is above, you might get some rain, so I am going to say that we are going to have that white Christmas.”

Given that we’ve had some mild winters of late, this one is going to come as a bit of a shock to the system. The past two winters have been among the five warmest of the past 70 years.

“How is the next one going to be? Well, it’s going to feel like a punch in the face, but it still could be above normal.

“It will overall come out to be colder than last year, but it won’t be punishingly cold – it’s not going to be that, nature is going to make up for getting us one of the warmest winters on record,” he said. “Last year was the fourth warmest in 70 years and the winter before was the second warmest, so we are out of practice. We have been spoiled from the last two winters.”

Looking at the tail end of winter from last year, Phillips says we had weather that was typically three or four degrees warmer than normal.

“We are not going to repeat that, but we still could come out to be above normal. It still could not be the winter from hell as a lot of people are saying. Is it a classic traditional kind of winter of our youth? No, we don’t think that,” he said. “Now, we think that when we look at our maps we might see in the next 30 days there is a tendency for it to be what we would describe as kind of normal to maybe a little bit below normal, so we think that the toughest part of winter will be at the front end.

“From now and then into January we think that it will be normal to a little cooler than normal, which will feel like an ice age compared to what we had last year.”

Overall though, he says that when they come right down to it, averaging out the front end and back end, it still may come out to be milder than normal.

“But I think that it will be safe to say it’s going to be colder than it was last year.”

Looking at precipitation levels, although trickier to predict, we can expect more snow than was the case last year, where rain was more the norm. The snow that falls is more likely to stick around, he predicted.

“I think we will see a little bit more snow than we normally would. Although you guys got about a normal amount, it’s just that it never stayed around because when it snowed one day it rained the next,” he said. “What nature giveth it also tooketh away. You didn’t have to do a lot of plowing and shoveling, although there were challenges because sometimes there were a lot of freeze/thaw kind of cycling. What you got was some of the rain froze and sometimes the snow piles were crusted with ice and so it may have looked worse than it was. But over all really you weren’t shoveling as much as you really would.”

And with more fluffy stuff sticking around, Phillips says the outdoor enthusiasts will be happy.

“Most people, what we will hear is that it was more of a winter. ‘I was more inconvenienced, the skiing was better, the snowmobiling was better, the ice fishing was better, but overall it wasn’t the weather of our grandparents. It wasn’t sort of a classic, traditional, punishing, face-numbing, wind-chill kind of a winter.’”

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