NEWS

Black outlook for a white Christmas across the country, Weather Network

12/22/2011 02:43 EST | Updated 02/21/2012 05:12 EST
TORONTO - Canadians may have spent the past few weeks dreaming of a white Christmas, but the Weather Network said most would be wise for many to shelve their visions of a winter wonderland for another year.

Unseasonably mild, dry conditions across the country will keep the snow at bay in most major centres, the forecaster said, adding it's a pattern that's persisted through most of the month.

Weather network meteorologist Chris Scott said the month of December has seen unusual conditions prevail from coast to coast.

Temperatures have hovered around average levels for coastal B.C., but the area hasn't seen the usual precipitation that falls at this time of year, he said.

"Once you head east of the Rockies, pretty much every Canadian city has been well above normal by some five or six degrees," Scott said in a telephone interview. "That's significant. When we end up being five or six degrees above normal for a month, everyone notices it."

The network is predicting December's trends will last right through Christmas, and is calling for little to no snow across the country. Scott said residents in the St. Lawrence Valley may see a hint of white on Christmas morning after receiving a few flurries over the weekend.

Environment Canada's prognosis for a white Christmas is somewhat more positive for some areas, notably the Atlantic provinces.

The national weather agency is calling for either flurries or light snow in parts of Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

The Weather Network's forecasts, however, fit into a larger pattern that Environment Canada noted earlier this month. Snowfall data between 1964 and 2009 suggest the odds of experiencing a white Christmas decreased markedly in recent decades.

In Edmonton, Saskatoon and Quebec City, where a white Christmas was all but a certainty between 1964 and 1982, the probability of a snowbound holiday has fallen sharply between 1991 and 2009.

Quebec City's chances have slipped to 95 per cent, Saskatoon's to 89 per cent and Edmonton to 79 per cent. The steepest drop, however, was in Sarnia, Ont., where the odds of a white Christmas, once three in four, are now less than one in three.

Senior climatologist David Phillips previously attributed the changes to global warming, which he said has made itself felt in even the coldest regions of the country.

"The one season that truly is not what it used to be is winter," he said. "I had this argument with old-timers years ago. They'd say, 'We don't think the winters are what they used to be,'' and I'd say, 'Nonsense.' But they've been right."

Canadians disappointed by the lack of snow on Christmas Day may find their wishes granted early in the new year instead, Scott said, adding the network is calling for conditions to shift in January.

"Generally speaking you can't hold a given weather pattern for more than about a month. Things will somewhat reset," he said. "We've been in this mild weather pattern, . . .but there will be a point at which that will break."

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