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Canadians, rejoice: Climatologist says winter is halfway done

A prolonged cold snap has frozen over the pond for skating as member of the Saanich Fire Department celebrates a goal during some hockey at Panama Flats in the District of Saanich in Victoria, B.C., Wednesday, January 11, 2017.


It's the dead of winter and — despite how ominous that might sound — the country's top climatologist says that's actually a good thing.

"I always think that should be a national holiday for people who are not big fans of winter," said Dave Phillips, senior climatologist at Environment Canada.

The dead of winter is the point where there "is more winter behind us than ahead of us."

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That point is calculated by noting the average temperature for every day of the year. On the day that average hits its lowest, we've hit the "bottom of the well."

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"Then it begins its slow, relentless rise to what we call the dog days of summer, which is the warmest moment statistically."

Because average temperatures vary across the country, the dead of winter will hit different areas on different days. Residents of British Columbia have already turned the corner, while the dead of winter comes to the rest of the Prairies this week.

The Maritimes hit rock bottom in early February and Iqaluit has to wait until Feb. 11 for the turning point.

"It's not as if winter is over by a long shot," Phillips said. "We've just hit the halfway point, but the good news is ... the flow seems to be coming more from the Pacific than the Arctic."

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Although there are no records being set in Western Canada, Phillips said it has been a tough year for the four western provinces.

Vancouver has received twice as much snow as normal and recorded 30 days where temperatures were below normal — double the average of 15.

"It has been persistently cold for that period," said Phillips. "In fact, if you look at the average temperature in December, the last time there was a colder December was 1990. That was more than 25 years ago. It was a bit of a shocker."

Winnipeg received a record snowfall for the month of December, while Calgary has suffered freezing temperatures and heavy snow.

This winter in Western Canada follows one of the warmest years on record in 2015 and, in many jurisdictions, winter was essentially cancelled last year, he said.

Canadians tend to base their weather expectations on the winter before, so this season has come as a shock to many, Phillips said.

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"It's like a punch in the face. Clearly, when you look at the temperatures, certainly the amount of snow, the number of cold days — if you're whining, it's not without cause. It has been tough."

Phillips said Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces have been slightly warmer than average, but with more precipitation in the form of rain and snow.

Here's when the dead of winter arrives in some cities across Canada:

Victoria — Jan. 3

Vancouver — Jan.4

Kelowna — Jan. 6

Calgary — Jan. 12

Regina — Jan. 13

Edmonton — Jan. 14

Ottawa — Jan. 19

Montreal — Jan. 21

Toronto — Jan. 23

Halifax — Feb. 2

St. John's, NL — Feb. 8

Iqaluit — Feb. 11

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