Wednesday, May 22, 2024

What does the warm winter mean for spring in Ottawa?

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Spring officially arrives at 11:06 p.m. today. What can Ottawa expect this year?

After one of the warmest winters on record, including the first without a single day where the temperature reached -20 C or below, Environment and Climate Change Canada is predicting a warmer than average spring.

But senior climatologist David Phillips told Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron on Monday that the season is going to start out cold.

“One would guess that, hey, it looks like a warmer than normal spring, but this is the time of the year of the duking out between winter wanting to hold on and summer wanting to get a foothold and we’re going to have to play with that for the next week or so,” he explained.

Ottawa has already seen warmer than average temperatures this month, with seven days of highs above 10 C, four of which set temperature records. The average high for this time of year is between 2 and 3 C. The forecast for this coming week includes highs around that seasonal mark or slightly colder with a chance of flurries mid-week.

“This coming week looks certainly different than the early summer weather we got last week,” said Phillips. “We’re going to have to deal with some snow; not bury you snow, just kind of flurries, teasers, nuisance kind of snow. You can’t ski on it or use it for anything. Freezing temperatures, highs of -2 rather than double-digit temperatures last week. So, put up with that, and then April, May and June, our forecasts are saying warmer than normal.”

The average mean temperature for March 2024 as of the 17th is 3.4 C, more than five degrees warmer than the average mean for the first 17 days of March 2023. February was more than four degrees warmer than average.

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s probabilistic forecasts for the Ottawa region for April, May and June show a strong probability of above-normal temperatures and a good chance of normal levels of precipitation.

“Not every day, but, hey, that’s the trend, and that’s probably going to be for the summer, too,” Phillips says. “So, one of the warmest years ever last year, the warmest summer, clearly, by far, and now looks like spring is going to also be warm, and then also summer.”

Could Ottawa still get another snowstorm before summer arrives? Phillips says you can’t count it out, but he also wouldn’t worry about it sticking around.

“Let’s put it this way, you’ve never had a spring in Ottawa without snow. It’s in the cards. It may be a skiff of snow. I can’t say. You’ve had some notorious heavy amounts of snow that have come in the spring. It’s when that moist air fights that cold air and then, boy, the result is snow,” he said.

“But this is it: what nature gives one day, it can take away so quickly the next day at this time of the year. When winter comes back, it lasts for maybe a day or two and then you’re back into the warm. I don’t, as a rule, shovel any snow that falls in March, April or May, because what nature giveth, it can taketh away.” 

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