TORONTO - Canadians in the eastern part of the country may have gasped with shock when they found themselves in the teeth of an arctic wind on Monday, but Environment Canada has few words of comfort _ sometimes, reality bites.

The blustery breezes and snowy conditions that prompted warnings and cancellations east of Manitoba are par for the course during the unpredictable month of April, the country's leading weather agency said.

Snowfalls such as the one threatening Labrador overnight are considered standard all through the month, and the always unreliable weather systems that dog the country year-round become particularly volatile throughout the early spring.

Senior climatologist David Phillips said the current conditions would barely register on the collective radar in an average winter, but said Canadians were taken unaware after weeks of unseasonably mild temperatures and record low precipitation levels.

The intense low-pressure system working its way up from the U.S. and reviving images of Old Man Winter east of Manitoba, he said, should serve as a reality check for those who thought spring had come to stay.

"April really has all of the suites of weather that we often get. Sometimes it's the middle of winter, sometimes it can be summery-like weather," Phillips said in a telephone interview.

"It really is the battleground ... A lot of the systems are found in eastern Canada in April, and I think this particular day and tomorrow is very much proof of that."

Environment Canada issued a raft of severe weather warnings for parts of Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes.

Forecasters are predicting strong winds through much of Quebec, adding that snow and freezing rain can be expected over the East Coast in the next few days.

Much of northeastern and southern Ontario has been placed under a significant snow watch, prompting school boards in the Ottawa area to cancel some bus routes and classes.

The wintry conditions should hang on for at least a few days, Phillips said, adding a return to seasonal norms is expected by week's end.

The type of activity unfolding on the East Coast is in no way unusual, he said, adding weather watchers in search of unusual climate activity would be best advised to set their sights to the West.

Across the prairies and much of Alberta, Canadians are basking under sunny skies as temperatures soar. Phillips said mother nature was on pace to post some new records in southern Alberta, where the temperature was expected to flirt with the 30C mark by day's end.

Probably people are snickering at what eastern Canadians are having to deal with," Phillips said.

Westerners may be getting a sneak preview of what lies in store next month, Phillips said, adding current Environment Canada models suggest the 2012 trend of milder temperatures and precipitation lows is expected to continue through May.

That lack of precipitation is causing some concern in climate circles, Phillips said, since it has left the ground unusually dry for this time of year and poses a threat to the country's farmers fields and forests.

Monday's return of winter, he said, should be seen by some as a blessing.

"The weather you're cursing today, when it turns out to be dryer than normal as it gets into the warm season, you may be singing a different tune here with regards to the precipitation," he said. "This is welcome rain that we need right now."

WINTER AROUND THE WORLD
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  • WINDBER, PA

    Michael Stilson of Windber, Pa., shovels wet-heavy snow along Graham Ave. in Windber, Somerset County, Monday, April 23, 2012.(AP)

  • JACKSON TOWNSHIP, PA

    Snow blankets the trees and a road in Jackson Township, Pa., Monday, April 23, 2012. A spring nor'easter packing soaking rain and high winds churned up the Northeast Monday morning, unleashing a burst of winter and up to a foot of snow in higher elevations inland, closing some schools and sparking concerns of power outages. (AP Photo)

  • GLENSHEE, U.K.

    Two girls sit on sculptures amid the snow at Glenshee on April 4, 2012 in Glenshee, Scotland. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

  • SEBASTOPOL

    A rainbow appears as water splashes a local walking on the Sebastopol sea-front on March 3, 2012. (GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images)

  • HEBRON

    Palestinians walk during a snow storm in the West Bank city of Hebron as wintry weather swept through the region on March 2, 2012. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • RANUA

    Palle-Jooseppi, a male brown bear of Ranua Zoo, begins to wake up after winter hibernation in Ranua on February 23, 2012. (KAISA SIREN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • ST. MORTIZ

    Rushing Dasher ridden by Natalie Friberg (c) leads the field in to the second turn during the Grand Prix Prestige race at the White Turf horse racing meeting held on the frozen Lake St Moritz on February 19, 2012 in St Moritz, Switzerland. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

  • CONCORD, NH

    Golfers practice at the driving range Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012 in Concord, N.H. The range opened early this year because of a mild winter. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

  • QUEBEC CITY

    A man races his six-dog sled during the winter carnival on Jan. 28. (photo THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot)

  • KITIMAT

    Sea smoke hugs the Kitimat, BC, harbour on Jan 19, 2012, surrounding the tug Smit Cecil and obscuring an empty barge anchored off the dock. Warmer fresh water from the Kitimat River is caught between the ocean water in the harbour and the frigid air, creating the sea smoke which is then caught by the wind. Kitimat was experiencing -23 C air temperature on this day, a windchill of -38 as arctic air kept much of Canada in the first deep freeze of the winter. (The Canadian Press Images/Robin Rowland)

  • LONDON, ONT.

    Patrick O'Hara enjoys a walk through Springbank Park in London's west end with his daughter Quinn and grandson Aidan. (photo: The Canadian Press Images/Mark Spowart)

  • SASKATOON

    David Ferguson attempts to stay warm on his walk home from work -27C weather (with the wind chill it felt like -40C) in Saskatoon, Wednesday, January 18, 2012. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards)

  • VANCOUVER

    Lucy Venegas, a soccer referee from Mexico in the city for the CONCACAF women's Olympic qualifying tournament, catches snowflakes in her mouth in downtown Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday January 18, 2012. Cold weather has enveloped the lower mainland with Vancouverites dealing with temperatures 10 degrees below normal. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

  • VANCOUVER

    A cyclist is framed by icicles hanging from Christmas lights on a tree in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday January 18, 2012. Cold weather has enveloped the lower mainland with Vancouverites dealing with temperatures 10 degrees below normal. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

  • MONTREAL

    A horse-drawn carriage makes its way down a street in Old Montreal during snowfall Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012. CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson.

  • OTTAWA

    Pedestrians brave the blustery winter weather as a storm system hits Ottawa on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick.

  • DUBUQUE, IOWA

    Joe Graham works to clear snow from the front of his family's business in Dubuque, Iowa, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012. AP PHOTO.

  • HALIFAX

    A motorist clears snow from their vehicle in Halifax on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011. A blast of wintry weather descended on the Maritimes causing numerous accidents, closing schools and delaying flights.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

  • OTTAWA

    Karen Kelly shovels a walkway as snow removal crews clean up on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, November 23, 2011, after the first snowfall of the season brought upwards of 10 cm of snow to the nation's capital. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)

  • MONTREAL

    A woman cleans snow from her car in Montreal, Wednesday, November 23, 2011 as the first heavy snowfall of winter hits Montreal and surrounding areas. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

  • OTTAWA

    Minister of Justice Rob Nicholson makes his way along Wellington Street during a snowfall in Ottawa on Wednesday, November 23, 2011. The first snowfall of the season brought upwards of 10 cm of snow to the Nations capital. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)

  • BEIJING

    Beijingers walk through the first snowfall of the year at a section of the rebuilt city wall in Beijing on December 2, 2011. (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • SAMARA, RUSSIA

    Shoppers walk past large piles of snow in Samara's Leningradskaya Street on November 10, 2011 in Samara, Russia. Samara is one of thirteen proposed host cities as Russia prepares to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup. (Photo by Harry Engels/Getty Images)

  • NEW MEXICO

    A horse stands in the intense wind and snow Monday, Dec., 5, 2011 near his corral off of Highway 70 in Las Cruces, N.M. Snowfall started to blanket the City of the Crosses at about 11 a.m. and steadily continued throughout the day. (AP Photo/Las Cruces Sun-News, Shari V. Hill)

  • COLORADO

    Traffic backs up behind snow plows clearing a street in Denver on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011. As much as seven inches of snow is in the forecast for the Mile High City on Thursday. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • CHATTANOOGA, TENN.

    Ruth Chauff, of New Orleans, laughs after making a small snowman near Point Park on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011., after snow fell across the Chattanooga, Tenn., area. She made a snowman with her daughter April Fontenot, not seen. (AP Photo/Chattanooga Times Free Press, Jake Daniels)

  • TBILISI, GEORGIA

    Snow covers Narikala, an ancient fortress dominating Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia on Monday, Nov. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

  • HARTSVILLE, PA

    Leaves and snow rest on the ground after a winter storm October 30, 2011 in Hartsville, Pennsylvania. Thousands in Pennsylvania and Delaware were left without power from the early winter storm that left up to 10 inches of snow in parts of the states. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)

  • SIGNAL MOUNTAIN, TENN.

    An early snow covers tackling dummies at Signal Mountain High School football practice field, in Signal Mountain, Tenn., early Tuesday morning, Nov. 29, 2011. The snowfall is considered early for the region. (AP Photo/Chattanooga Times Free Press, Dan Henry)

  • CONCORD, N.H.

    Paul Worsowicz watches his putt during the traditional 29th annual Thanksgiving Day golf tournament Thursday, Nov. 24, 2011 in Concord, N.H. More than 100 players showed up at sunrise to play nine holes in the snow covered course.(AP Photo/Jim Cole)

  • EAST MONTPELIER, VT.

    A flock of wild turkeys walk through a snow-covered field Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011 in East Montpelier, Vt. Snow mixed with sleet and freezing rain is knocking out power to thousands of Vermonters and making the morning commute a slippery one.(AP Photo/Toby Talbot)