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Canadians dreaming of a white Christmas can keep dreaming

dave chan The Globe and Mail

Most Canadians will go without a white Christmas this year, the largest number to make merry minus snow on Dec. 25 since the nation began measuring its holiday accumulation.

In a land where everything from Christmas cards to movies and TV shows are traditionally cloaked in white, such famously snowy places as Winnipeg and Saskatoon are expected to be bereft this year.

"Most Canadians will see a green Christmas," said Dave Phillips, senior climatologist at Environment Canada. "Who would have thought in the Great White North, the land of ice and snow, that we would be denied something that we hold close to our hearts?"

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It was in 1955 that Environment Canada began keeping track of white Christmases – defined as having at least two centimetres of snow on the ground by 7 a.m. The difference this year is that, while about 85 per cent of the country will get snow as usual, the affected areas won't be those with large populations.

Some Canadians say they're glad for the warmer weather and don't mind a snowless holiday.

"Personally I wouldn't care if I ever saw a flake of snow ever again," said Corina Chippett in Gander, Nfld.

Gander, actually, is likely to have a snowy Christmas, although Ms. Chippett said the weather wouldn't change her celebration in any case. "I still put up the Christmas tree, I still put up decorations, whether there's snow on the ground or not," she said. "I still started to play Christmas music Dec. 1st."

In fact, remote areas will be blanketed. There will be snow in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, Yukon, the Northern Prairies, Northern British Columbia, Northern Ontario and most of Quebec. (Quebec City is expected to be one sizable city boasting the winter-wonderland look.)

But not so in Winnipeg, which normally has a 98-per-cent chance of Yuletide snow. There, 66-year-old Art Abesamis said the warm weather means he doesn't have to be concerned about his son's flight from Toronto for the holiday. And, he said, "I can go out with light clothing and I can go shopping without worrying about the cold."

He admits there's part of him that wouldn't mind some flurries. "It feels like Christmas, like on the Christmas card," he said.

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As it happens, there's only a chance of flurries on Friday, and temperatures could be as warm as 1C on Sunday. For Winnipeg, a typical Christmas high is around -11C.

Mr. Phillips said temperatures across the country during December have been an average of 6 or 7C higher than usual, which has quickly melted any white stuff. Over the next few days, cities in the east like St. John's will have some snow on the ground – but rain may wash it all away.

Even where snow accumulates, there will be less than average, Mr. Phillips said. Whitehorse, for example, has 16 cm of snow this year compared to an average of 28 cm.

With the roads clear, the warm weather might boost last-minute Christmas shopping, according to Richard Woolley, vice-president of operations at Weather Trends International, which advises businesses including Loblaws and Wal-Mart on weather trends.

"When you don't have a lot of snowstorm activity … that tends to be helpful," he said, noting the downside is a decrease in sales of winter apparel.

Near Collingwood, Ont., Paul Russell, who works at a winter-gear store, said he and other retailers are hoping the cold and snow return to normal soon. Thursday's temperatures were expected to be about six degrees higher than usual.

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"Some people who don't go skiing or boarding are probably happy with plus [temperatures]" he said, "but this whole Collingwood area, we depend on tourism."

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