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Goodbye, summer: A lot of 'rather boring' weather across Canada

A light layer of fog covers the beach at Ashbridge's Bay May 30, 2013. Torontonians experienced their fast blast of summer with temperatures hitting 30 celsius.

Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

With only three more days left until that white summer blazer is banished to the back of the closet, The Globe and Mail spoke to Environment Canada's senior climatologist, Dave Phillips, to find out which regions of Canada saw a bummer or a hummer of summer.

The smokin' coasts

The most summer-like conditions were generally felt on the west and east coasts, where it was warmer than normal.

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British Columbia didn't get the usual June gloom, but was instead both warm and dry. In Vancouver in July and August, the city ended up with about 45 per cent of normal rainfall and temperatures averaged out to be 1.2 degrees warmer than normal.

"It was in a way rather boring," Mr. Phillips said. "It was blue skies, white puffy clouds, the odd little bit of rain … and some days where the temperature got up to about 28 degrees, which for them (Vancouver) is really warm."

Calgary also saw temperatures almost 2 degrees warmer than normal for July and August, with precipitation at about 56 per cent of usual.

July was also exceptionally warm for St. John's, Newfoundland, which experienced more days when the temperature got above 25 degrees than Toronto, resulting in their warmest month since the 1870s when records were first kept.

"That's a marine climate, that's on the coast. They normally are looking at icebergs out there," Mr. Phillips said.

Central Comfort

Conditions in the central part of the country – including western Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and parts of Saskatchewan – were near normal, where it wasn't cold but it wasn't hot.

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Toronto had only five days above 30 degrees this summer; two years ago the city saw 25 of those days, and last year there were 15.

"This year has been almost lukewarm [in Toronto]" Mr. Phillips said.

But the Toronto region's weather wasn't without its oddities: in a one-day wonder, the city saw its hottest day of the season late in the game on Aug. 25.

"To have to go to the last part, less than a week before Labour Day, to get the warmest temperature, it's almost like nature's sneering at us," Mr Phillips said.

Whereas weather was also a tad wetter than normal in Ontario, weekends and holidays were generally dry: out of the 36 Saturdays, Sundays and holidays in the season, only 10 were wet.

"Recent summers have been so warm [that] the take-home message from previous summers is, 'Wow, expect it to be hot humid and hazy' – well it wasn't hazy, it wasn't humid. If anything, in central Canada from Ontario and to western Quebec, it was comfortable," Mr. Phillips said.

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Smogless Ontario

There hasn't been a smog day in the whole province this summer, something which Mr. Phillips says is a rarity.

"My gosh, when you can have some years where you've had 45 of those suckers (smog days) and this year: zero," he said.

Simply put, temperatures never got hot enough to cook the chemicals and whenever the air got stale and it looked like smog might show up, it rained, Mr. Phillips said.

"It was like nature was working hard to give us that very healthy kind of a summer."

Northern flames

A June and July that was too dry and too hot for too long in the Northwest Territories led to some deadly forest fires, with smoke drifting down to parts of western Canada and the United States.

In those first two months of summer, the territory got 13.4 mm of rain compared to the normal 70 mm for that time period.

"When you look at that, that's just unbelievable. That is less than 20 per cent of what they normally would see," Mr. Phillips said.

At the same time, he said, they were dealing with temperatures 1 to 1.5 degrees warmer than usual.

"Lots of heat, excruciatingly dry, a brittle kind of a situation. They didn't have a lot of moisture during the winter time [either]," Mr. Phillips said.

In Yellowknife, the situation has improved with above-normal precipitation for August, he said, and a particularly good dosing of welcomed rains came in the last few days, which has helped to snuff out some of those flames.

Extreme weather events:

Compared to the extreme weather events that hit places like Calgary and Toronto last year, this summer has been on the quieter side, true, but Mr. Phillips cautioned Canadians not to be seduced into thinking violent and variable weather is a thing of the past.

"Even nature does take a breather the odd time, but I don't think we should be thinking that the worst is over, that we're now going to go into something that is rather stale and boring and uneventful. I think that would be a huge mistake."

If anything, he said, Canadians should use this opportunity to get ready for the next variable summer: "That's more likely to be in the forecast than another quiet year," he said.

Indeed, the summer saw some isolated extreme weather events:

  • Ontario had more tornadoes than normal – the storm in Angus, Ont. that tore the roofs off dozens of homes being the strongest.
  • Hurricane Arthur caused many in Nova Scotia to lose power for up to a week.
  • Burlington, Ont. received a bout of heavy rainfall of 190 mm in the first weekend of August.
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