The Climate of Canada
The Canadian climate varies like a kaleidoscope. Provinces like Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut, and those with borders near the Arctic Circle, have harsh climate for seven months of the year. The Canadian climate warms the further south one travels in most any of the provinces. The differences in Canadian climate also depend on landscape. Plains, prairies, mountainous and coastal areas influence these differences.
Atlantic Canada includes Newfoundland, Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Ontario. Newfoundland and Labrador experience radically changing climate: short summers of approximately six-week duration, high winds and sudden rain and snow storms, given their proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island to the south are climatically more temperate, though winters have heavy snowfalls. The climates of Southern Quebec and Ontario are relatively stable year round. Summers are likely to be humid, sunny and mild.
Traveling westward to Manitoba, the most central Canadian province, cities like Winnipeg, Portage la Prairie and Dauphin enjoy cooling breezes from Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba, located in the western part of the province. The sun shines brightly on a summer day and most winter days are sunny as well. In winter, there is very little rain and a snowfall from 20 to 23 inches from December through March. Southern Saskatchewan, from Saskatoon to Regina and Moose Jaw have dry prairie climate: light wind, moderate humidity and fairly stable temperatures in winter and sunny summers.
Alberta, a picturesque western province known for its Stampede and abundance of oil, has warm dry summers. Winters in Alberta, particularly in the areas around Calgary, Edmonton and Lac le Biche often bring sub-sub-zero temperatures. In this province, snowfall is irregular. Summer rainfall is sparse often causing drought. Several times, Alberta experienced intense three-day rainfalls causing flooding. A summer Alberta day may begin with pleasant, dry temperatures and end with a light snowfall even in August. The Rockies influence temperatures. Calgary, at the foothills, is protected from heavy snowfall. Autumn offers a gentle wind and a riot of colourful foliage in oranges and gold. Banff, a glacial area, experiences some dense morning fog, mild summers and mid-days of warm sunshine. In winter, it’s a skier’s delight.
Alberta’s capital, Edmonton is a quaint city, unlike the more western-styled Calgary, a city made famous for its “largest-in-the-world” Stampede in the first week of July each year. The weather nearly always cooperates with Calgary during Stampede Week with its many riding and roping events. Edmonton does experience heavier snowfalls than its neighbouring city, Calgary, to the south.
Alberta is often warmed in fall and winter by the occurrence of a “chinook”, a mass of clouds with a blanket of warm air.
British Columbia has the most temperate climate of all, varying from marine to continental. The Pacific Ocean’s warming trend in summers provides less harsh temperatures in winter. The topography is mountainous which helps maintain a stable climate year round, though an Arctic air current may bring a day or two of frigid temperatures in winter.
Spring comes to British Columbia weeks ahead of Alberta. The first flowers begin to bloom here in late March and early April. Moisture-laden westerly winds blowing off the Pacific Ocean send warm air masses to Vancouver and Vancouver Island, though winters can be wet summer temperatures sore.