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In August 2009, Toronto set records with temperatures rising to 32 degrees celcius, with a humidex in the low forties. On Woodbine Beach in Toronto people were enjoying the heat. (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail/Peter Power / The Globe and Mail)
In August 2009, Toronto set records with temperatures rising to 32 degrees celcius, with a humidex in the low forties. On Woodbine Beach in Toronto people were enjoying the heat. (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail/Peter Power / The Globe and Mail)

Weather

Here comes the sun: Hotter than normal summer predicted Add to ...

After a soggy and often dreary spring, the country's weather guru has some promising news: Nearly all of Canada is in store for a warmer-than-normal summer.

Environment Canada's official summer forecast, released Wednesday, shows that few parts of the country are expected to miss out on higher temperatures, mainly the West and East coasts. The three-month outlook confirms the agency's unofficial prognosis, but senior climatologist David Phillips said it's impossible to tell how much warmer this June, July and August will be.

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Last year was the country's third-warmest summer since nationwide record-keeping began in 1948.

"I think given what we've had in the spring, which has been cool and wet, this could only be interpreted as a piece of good news for Canadians," Mr. Phillips said.

Summer precipitation is trickier to forecast because it's highly variable. Environment Canada's three-month rainfall outlook suggests the Prairies could see more precipitation than usual, while most of British Columbia and southern regions of Ontario and Quebec are expected to see the reverse, although Mr. Phillips cautioned that Canadians shouldn't put much stock in this prediction. Temperatures are a better bet, he said.

If Environment Canada's summer forecast holds true, there will likely be some troublesome - and potentially deadly - downsides. The weather conditions could prove fertile ground for smog, tornadoes and wildfires in some regions, Mr. Phillips warned.

Smog

Southern Ontario sweltered Tuesday, as humidex values hovered around 40C in many cities. High temperatures and humidity prompted Toronto to issue its first heat alert of the year, advising residents to drink lots of fluids, stay out of the sun and seek relief in places with air conditioning.

Smog alerts are only a matter of time.

"If, in fact, the weather forecast for the summer is hotter, we could also expect air quality to be worse," noted Monica Campbell, director of healthy public policy with Toronto Public Health.

Smog, a mixture of pollutants in the air, chiefly affects Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes in Canada. It can diminish air quality any time of the year, but is most common in the summer. Smog can worsen heart conditions, asthma, bronchitis and other lung problems.

Severe weather

Mr. Phillips expects he might receive some flak for this prediction, but he believes this summer could yield more severe weather events, including tornadoes.

"I know this is going out on a limb a bit … but with warmer temperatures and with more water to evaporate, you may very well see a little bit more severe weather - more of the tornadoes and the lightning and the hail and winds."

Except for the United States, Canada gets more tornadoes than any other country. These rotating columns of high winds can cause widespread destruction, uprooting trees, tossing cars and demolishing buildings. But Mr. Phillips isn't expecting Canada will experience anywhere near the level of tornado activity that has ripped across the U.S. Midwest.

Wildfires

Some of the seeds for this forest-fire season were sown last year, when many parts of Canada were drier than normal. A lack of moisture in the ground and in the air has created a "tinderbox" in the northern Prairies, Mr. Phillips said. Warmer-than-normal temperatures and the possibility of increased lightning storms this summer won't help.

The B.C. Interior appears particularly vulnerable. Last year was an intense forest-fire season in Canada's westernmost province, with 320,000 hectares of forest burned. Provincial officials are again keeping a close watch.

"It's a day-to-day assessment," said Jillian Chimko, an information officer in the province's Prince George fire centre. "We never put out a notice as to what exactly our fire season is going to look like because it's so unpredictable."

 

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