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Winter makes it official this weekend, with a milder one in the forecast

While the early snow arrival and freezing temperatures across the region may indicate otherwise, winter hasn’t actually started.

The new season makes its official arrive on Saturday (December 21). Weather guru David Phillips predicts it’ll be a comparatively mild one, with a 50-50 shot at white Christmas during its first full week.

Also on the horizon are more prolonged bouts of freezing rain, which isn’t likely to top anyone’s list of wintry dreams.

“I think the added risk this year is that we are milder than normal – we see a little bit more southerly air, that American air, that Trump air, whatever you want to call it,” said Phillips, senior climatologist at Environment Canada. “Well, there’s always that risk that you’re going to get a little bit more freezing rain than you bargained for.”

Freezing rain is guaranteed here in Canada, he added: it’s more of a question whether or not there are longer versus shorter bouts. One to three hours of freezing rain will not affect things too much, but any longer than six hours can result in ice encasing trees, wires and the like. Longer bouts are particularly problematic because they can also result in power outages, icy road conditions and school cancellations.

The month of December has stayed relatively mild, as there have been no significant storms thus far, which may be an indicator of the season in general, said Phillips. We’re likely to see a bit of blip on that front at week’s end, with today’s forecast at minus-9, about seven degrees below what’s normally expected at this time of year.

“But by next weekend, we’ll have temperatures very close to the freezing mark,” said Phillips. “So I think that swinging back and forth, that yo-yo kind of weather, is nature giving us a dress rehearsal or dry run as to how we think this winter will unfold.

“I don’t think it will be the bogeyman that people think it really was. I think there will be moments where we wish somewhere else. We always have some kind of winter-like weather.”

A little bit of a rough road during the winter months is not a surprise for the second-coldest and snowiest country in the world. With six days left to go until Christmas Day, Phillips said it’s too close to call whether or not it will turn out to be a snowy one.

“I think that it’s a flip of a coin. I think it could be either way,” said Phillips. “I don’t think that it’s not going to be a real dump of snow, it may be a white Christmas but it’s not going to keep you storm state. You’re not going to have so much snow that the in-laws are going to have to stay over.”

These events can be difficult to predict, said Phillips. There have been times where Christmas Day turned out to be green despite a snowy week prior, and times where there was unexpectedly a white Christmas despite balmy weather in the days leading up to it.

“It’s going to be touch-and-go whether you get one. If you’ve got two centimetres sitting in your backyard right now, I think it’s going to be refreshed on several occasions with flurries. That will clean up that snowpack,” he said.

“If you’re green right now, you’re going to have to dream a lot harder to get a white Christmas than you normally would, because we don’t see any weather makers in the system right as we speak. But, hey, there are storms that will affect us in the next two weeks that aren’t even born yet, so who knows?”

One thing is certain, however: we’ll be getting some version of winter weather between now and spring’s official arrival in three months’ time.

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