TORONTO — With Christmas just 15 days away, one climate expert suggests some Canadians should be more optimistic than others when it comes to the possibility of having a white Christmas this year.
Environment Canada senior climatologist Dave Phillips defines a white Christmas as at least two centimetres of snow on the ground on Christmas Day, and said the majority of the regions that currently meet that threshold are expected to maintain their snowfall over the next two weeks, while other regions will need to get lucky.
“What’s sort of interesting is that the kind of stuff we used to dream about, you know, ‘dreaming of a white Christmas,’ well, we have to do more than dreaming right now, we have to be begging and hoping and maybe even praying for a white Christmas,” Phillips told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview.
Phillips said that roughly the top half of B.C. and the Prairies, most of northern Ontario and the upper parts of the Ottawa Valley, the north shore of the St. Lawrence River and eastern Quebec, northwestern New Brunswick and from Labrador to Gander, N.L., meet the standard for a white Christmas already.
“I would say that probably right now it’s looking like about 80 per cent of Canada looks like it has snow for a white Christmas, 80 per cent of the geography, but clearly not 80 per cent of the people,” he said.
Phillips said the weather this fall has been hard to predict as there have been spurts across the country of unseasonably warm and cold weather. He expects the trend to continue in the lead-up to Christmas, with a polar vortex next week bringing colder temperatures across the country, but some parts will warm in the few days immediately before the holidays.
“I think if you get your white Christmas next week in the Prairies, you’re probably going to hold it, but all of a sudden, Ontario, southern Quebec, the Maritimes are going to be warmed up and so is British Columbia along the coast, the interior and into the southern parts of Alberta,” he said. “Those are the areas that are going to be marginal.”
While there aren’t any significant snowfalls on the immediate horizon for Canadians, Phillips said these can typically only be predicted four or five days in advance, meaning a lot can change between now and Christmas.
“I could never guarantee anything with the weather. I mean, not in Canada, it attacks us from every direction,” he said.
“I could certainly be willing to bet a few loonies that Vancouver won’t get a white Christmas and that Toronto will be a coin flip, and I would say Halifax probably not, but the Prairies and those traditional places, it’s a done deal.”
Phillips said the historical data over the past 22 years has shown several areas of Canada have a 90-per-cent chance of having a white Christmas, including the territories, Winnipeg, Quebec City and Labrador, while others, including Vancouver and Victoria, have a less-than-15-per-cent chance.
Meanwhile, areas such as Toronto, Halifax and Saint John, N.B., have had a less-than-50-per-cent chance of snow on Christmas.
Overall, the historical data shows white Christmases are becoming more infrequent and less robust, Phillips said. In the 1960s and 1970s, Canadians had about a 79 per cent change of experiencing a white Christmas, while that figure is down to about 66 per cent now, while the snowfall used to average out at about 16 centimetres, but is now down to just 11.
“Those are the things that we’re faced with because of climate change, urban heat island, all those kinds of things, in fact I often say that where we will notice climate change more will be in our lack of white Christmases in the decades to come,” he said.
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