…Environment Canada scientists report that winter 2009/10 was 4 C above normal, making it the warmest since nationwide records were first kept in 1948. It was also the driest winter on the 63-year record, with precipitation 22 per cent below normal nationally, and down 60 per cent in parts of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario.
“It’s beyond shocking,” David Phillips, a senior climatologist with Environment Canada, told Canwest News Tuesday. Records have been shattered from “coast to coast to coast.”
“It is truly a remarkable situation,” says Phillips, noting that he’s seen nothing like it in his 40 years of weather watching. He also warns that “the winter that wasn’t” may have set the stage for potentially “horrific” water shortages, insect infestations and wildfires this summer.
As much of Asia, Europe and the U.S. shivered through and shovelled out of freak winter storms, Phillips says Canada was left on the sidelines.
“It’s like winter was cancelled in this country,” he says.
Temperature across Canada, except for a small area over the southern Prairies, were above normal, with some parts of Nunavut and northern Quebec more than six degrees above normal, he and his colleagues report. It’s been “downright balmy” in much of the north, the St. Lawrence River is all but ice free, as are waters off Newfoundland, while Vancouver had to haul in snow for the Winter Olympics.
Phillips says the extraordinary winter appears to be tied to several factors, chief among them El Nino, a shift in the winds and ocean currents in the Pacific Ocean, and the shrinking Arctic ice, which has thinned and retreated markedly in recent years.
“I think it’s a combination of a strong El Nino and the shrinking and disappearance of the ice at the top of the world,” says Phillips, adding that changing “pressure spots” in the Arctic and Atlantic also played a role. “They’ve all been working in cahoots to create this unbelievable winter.”
…It says the long-term record shows Canada’s climate has changed, most markedly in the winter, which has warmed 2.5 C over the last 63 years.
“The winter season shows the greatest warming of any season, but all seasons have shown a warming trend since 1948,” says the summary. Of the 10 warmest winters, four have occurred within the last decade, and 11 of the last 20 winters are listed among the 20 warmest.
This winter was a standout, with records being shattered from B.C. to Baffin Island to the Great lakes. The North saw extraordinary temperatures, with three regions setting “a new high mark” — the Arctic tundra 5.4 C above normal, Arctic mountains and fiords 5.3 C above normal, and northwestern forest 4.2 C above normal.
…The warm, dry winter could spell big trouble this summer. “One of the greatest things about our winter is it kills bugs and diseases and resets the clock for us,” says Phillips. Or, it used to. He says many pests are sure to be thriving after this year’s warm winter.
…”This may be dress rehearsal of what we’ll see as normal in years to come,” says Phillips, suggesting it is time to start adapting to the new warmer reality.
Weather Channel Asks, “July in April?”, Joseph Romm, Climate Progress:
This graphic (above) shows the ratio of record daily highs to record daily lows observed at about 1,800 weather stations in the 48 contiguous United States from January 1950 through September 2009. Each bar shows the proportion of record highs (red) to record lows (blue) for each decade. The 1960s and 1970s saw slightly more record daily lows than highs, but in the last 30 years record highs have increasingly predominated, with the ratio now about two-to-one for the 48 states as a whole. (©UCAR, graphic by Mike Shibao.)
NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) begins its release on this study:
Spurred by a warming climate, daily record high temperatures occurred twice as often as record lows over the last decade across the continental United States, new research shows. The ratio of record highs to lows is likely to increase dramatically in coming decades if emissions of greenhouse gases continue to climb.
…assuming we keep doing what we’re doing, which is to say, nothing, NCAR predicts (and yes, they use the word “predictions” not “projections”):
The modeling results indicate that if nations continue to increase their emissions of greenhouse gases in a “business as usual” scenario, the U.S. ratio of daily record high to record low temps would increase to about 20-to-1 by mid-century and 50-to-1 by 2100.
- Report — State of the Climate Global Analysis 2010, NOAA
- Article — Hottest March & Hottest Jan-Feb-March on Record, Climate Progress
- Article — Weather Channel Asks, “July in April?”, Climate Progress
- Article — Record-Breaking Temps This Weekend, Environment Canada, Toronto Star
- Article — Summer Outlook: Lots More Sun/Heat Than Last Year, Toronto Star
- Article — Wacky Winter a Signal of Years to Come: Climatologist, Ottawa Citizen
- Vid/Article — Canada Has Had Its Warmest, Driest Winter on Record, CTV
- blogeye — Only Months, Not Years, to Save Civilization from Climate Change, Lester Brown
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