Muskoka To-DAILY

Spring marching right along, after wet January, warm February, says Evironment Canada

Mark Clairmont |

MUSKOKA — When does spring come?

March, April and May. Then summer June, July and August, followed by fall September to November, and back to winter December to February.

Well, according to Geoff Coulson, warning preparedness meteorologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada, a taste of spring came in February.

So, were the groundhogs right?

According to his monthly report below, Valentine’s month was the warmest February ever recorded at Windsor Airport, Toronto Pearson, Ridgetown, London and Sarnia.

Monthly mean temperatures across the province ranged from 2 to 5 degrees above normal.

Meanwhile, the first half of March looks to be above normal temperature-wise across much of the province. The exception is in the far north where temperatures are likely to trend below normal. Looking ahead into the second half of the month, there isn’t a strong signal with regards to how the temperature may play out.

There is some indication that the first half of the month may experience above normal precipitation across much of the province with the exception of the far north. However, there is greater uncertainty looking ahead to the second half of the month, as there is no strong signal at this point.

Getting back to February, Coulson says it started off on a cold note with bands of lake-effect snow. Extreme cold warnings were issued at the beginning on the month with wind chill values of -45 forecasted in Far-Northern Ontario near Hudson Bay on the 1st and in the Attawapiskat region on the 2nd. Cold temperatures made way for spring-like temperatures by mid-month.

An unseasonably mild air mass, more typical of April, paid a visit to northwestern Ontario on Friday February 17th. A number of single-day maximum temperatures records were set as a result. Most of the former records that were broken dated back to 1954, while observations for those stations started in the late 1800 to early 1900s.

By the 18th, the mild air mass had spread to the entire province causing a wave of single-day records to be set on the 18th, 19th and then between the 22nd to the 25th in Southern Ontario. The air was so warm that new single-day temperature records, for any day of the month, were set in London, Vineland, Hamilton, Toronto Pearson, Vaughan and Trenton.

During the month of February, most of Ontario experienced more precipitation than normal, except for southwestern Ontario where precipitation levels were close to normal. For part of the month, the far north was in an active storm track. A few systems coming from the Prairies brought significant snowfall to those regions while missing most of northern Ontario. Portions of far northern Ontario received double to triple the normal precipitation amounts. Traditional lake-effect snow areas, around Lake Superior, Lake Huron and Georgian Bay received plenty of snowfall due to the very low ice extent on the Great Lakes.

Severe Weather

Overall, Coulson says February was a fairly quiet month with regards to winter severe weather. This is not surprising considering how mild the month was across the province. However, as is normally the case during the winter months, a few events do stand out.

On Tuesday, February 7, a major low pressure system affected all of southern Ontario. Freezing rain was the main issue with this system. With the exception of places nearer to Lake Erie, much of Southern and Central Ontario was subjected to several hours of freezing rain. Numerous cancellations of flights, school buses and other events were reported throughout the region. Some power outages were also reported, with over 15000 customers without power in the Toronto area alone. Several millimetres of ice were reported in many locations.

On Sunday, February 12, a weather system brought heavy snow in a swath of regions from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) eastward towards Ottawa. Fortunately this event occurred on a Sunday when fewer people are out on the roads, so impacts were minimal. However, the interesting aspect of this snowfall was the snowfall rates.   Across the GTA, the snow fell at a heavy rate throughout the morning with very poor visibilities. The majority of the 16 cm of snow that fell there all fell within about 8 hours, from 6AM till 2PM. Farther east, amounts were even higher. The Ottawa airport reported 29 cm, all of it falling in approximately 16 hours.

On Tuesday, February 21, a section of Highway 17 north of Wawa was closed due to a washout that was caused by heavy rainfall. The Wawa airport reported 17 millimetres, but much of it fell in a relatively short period of time.

A taste of summer weather affected much of southwestern Ontario on Friday, February 24.

Record warm temperatures that afternoon in combination with an approaching weather system set the stage for thunderstorm development. A few areas of thunderstorms charged through southern Ontario late that afternoon and evening. Although these thunderstorms remained below severe thresholds for the most part, one storm in Ilderton (near London) caused some tree damage. Very frequent lightning and small hail were reported in several areas across southern Ontario with this weather system.

In the early morning hours of Sunday, February 26, a pileup involving approximately 35 cars occurred on Highway 401 within Toronto. Weather conditions preceding the event were mild, but a small area of moderate snow moved through the area. Although the snow only last a few minutes, it was enough to create very slippery conditions. The pavement was likely still warm and the melted snow refroze to create very hazardous conditions. Seven people were transported to hospital, all with non-life-threatening injuries.

January wrap-up

The final numbers are also now in for the first month of 2017.

January had unusually mild and above normal precipitation, as we know.

In Muskoka 123 mm of rain fell, compared to the normal 93 cm.

And the snow count was up, totalling 106 cm, compared to a norm of 87.2.

Snowfall amounts included 51 cm in Bracebridge, 40 cm in Gravenhurst, 60 cm near Bala.

The majority of the province was significantly milder than normal in January, says Coulson in his report.

He said overall across southern portions of the province, January had below average snowfall, but above average rainfall, resulting in above average precipitation.

The greatest departures from normal occurred in northeastern Ontario, where temperatures were as much as seven degrees above normal.

The first half of January started off fairly cold, particularly across northwestern Ontario, but all of that changed towards the middle of the month when much milder air affected much of the province and persisted for nearly two weeks.

In fact, several daily maximum temperature records were set in the province during this mild spell. One day that stands out was January 19th across northwestern Ontario. In some cases, daytime highs that day were more than 15 degrees Celsius above normal. Some of the records that were set that day include 6.3°C at Ear Falls, 5.1°C at Sioux Lookout and 5.5°C at Upsala. A normal high for these stations is closer to -10°C to -13°C. Colder air more typical of January moved back in towards the end of the month, but overall the month as a whole will be remembered as a very mild month.

During the month of January, much of southern Ontario and portions of far northeastern Ontario experienced above average precipitation.

Across southern Ontario, the start of the month was snowy across areas close to the Great Lakes. Cold air combined with the open waters of the Great Lakes resulted in widespread lake effect snows mainly during the first ten days of January.

In addition, several weather systems over the course of the month affected much of southern Ontario resulting in above average precipitation.

Due to the milder conditions, during the second half of the month, much of this precipitation came in the form of rain.

As mentioned above, across southern portions of the province, January had below average snowfall, but above average rainfall, resulting in above average precipitation.

Across far northeastern Ontario, a number of weather systems that mainly affected northern Quebec also spread precipitation into the region. Across northwestern Ontario, a weather system brought significant amounts of snow near the start of the month. However, in general, few weather systems affected the area and so precipitation ended up being near or somewhat below average.

Severe Weather

Shortly into the start of the New Year, very cold air settled across much of the province. This colder air over the relatively warmer waters of the Great Lakes resulted in widespread snow squall activity. Significant amounts were reported on the 5th and 6th of January for areas close to Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. Some amounts included 51 cm in Bracebridge, 40 cm in Gravenhurst, 60 cm near Bala, and 57 cm in Tara.

On Saturday, January 7, an intense band of snow on Lake Ontario came onshore near Port Hope bringing heavy snow and very low visibilities. Although snowfall amounts were not overly significant, it was the sudden onset of poor conditions that likely took many drivers on Highway 401 by surprise. The end result was a massive multi-car pileup involving nearly 100 cars. Luckily, nobody was killed in the collisions, although several people needed to be taken to hospitals with minor injuries.

On Tuesday, January 10th, a Colorado low brought snow to portions of southern and northeastern Ontario. Snowfall amounts of near 15 cm were reported in a swath of regions from near Georgian Bay and across northeastern Ontario.

However, the main impact from this storm system was the high wind gusts during the late evening of the 10th and the early hours of the 11th. Wind gusts in excess of 80 km/h were reported across portions of southern Ontario. The highest gusts occurred near the Lake Erie shoreline and portions of the Greater Toronto Area where wind gusts exceeded 100 km/h. According to Hydro One, approximately 59,000 customers were without power due to the high winds.

Tuesday, January 17 also proved to be a very significant weather day across much of southern Ontario due to freezing rain. In many areas, freezing rain persisted for several hours and resulted in treacherous road conditions, numerous school bus cancellations and school closures, as well as flight cancellations and delays.

Stormy weather on Tuesdays seemed to be a theme during the month. Tuesday, January 24 also saw significant weather over portions of eastern Ontario, with freezing rain being the issue yet again. Freezing rain developed during the early morning hours across the north shore of eastern Lake Ontario as well as regions near the St. Lawrence River and Ottawa.

Numerous school bus cancellations occurred and several automobile collisions were reported. For the most part, eastern Ontario was spared the worst from this weather system. The greatest impacts from freezing rain were experienced over New Brunswick and southern Quebec.

Record mean temperature readings (in °C), ranked by variation from normal:

Location Mean Temp Normal Difference Previous Record
Earlton -9.0E -16.2 7.2 1944 (-9.7)
Geraldton -12.0 -18.6 6.6 2006 (-12.9)

Unusual mean temperature readings (in °C), ranked by variation from normal:

Location Mean Temp Normal Difference Warmest since
Moosonee -12.4 -20.0 7.6 1944 (2nd since 1933)
Kapuskasing -10.6 -17.9 7.3 1944 (2nd since 1918)
Timmins -10.0E -16.8 6.8 1944 (2nd since 1922)
Petawawa * -6.4 -12.9 6.5 2002
Pickle Lake -13.9 -19.3 5.4 2006
Sudbury -7.7 -13.0 5.3 2006
Sault Ste. Marie -4.9E -9.9 5.0 2006
Thunder Bay* -10.0 -14.8 4.8 2012
Sioux Lookout -12.6E -17.4 4.8 2006
Ottawa -5.6 -10.3 4.7 2002
Trenton -2.5 -6.8 4.3 2006
Peterborough -4.4 -8.5 4.1 2012
Kingston -3.0 -7.0 4.0 2006
Shanty Bay -3.7 -7.7 4.0 2006
Toronto Pearson -1.6 -5.5 3.9 2006 (4th since 1938)
London -2.0 -5.6 3.6 2006
Wiarton -2.7 -6.3 3.6 2008
Sarnia -1.3E -4.8 3.5 2006
Kenora -12.5 -16.0 3.5 2012
Hamilton -2.2 -5.5 3.3 2013
Toronto City -0.5 -3.7 3.2 2006
Windsor -0.9E -3.8 2.9 2012 (tied)
Barrie -5.0 -7.7 2.7 2006

Unusual rainfall readings (in mm), ranked by variation from normal:

Location Rainfall Normal Difference Anomaly (%) Most rain since
Kitchener/Waterloo 89.8 28.7 61.1 212.9 1950 (3rd since 1914)
Hamilton 71.4 29.7 41.7 140.4 2013
Shanty Bay 56.0 19.7 36.3 184.3 1998 (2nd since 1973)
Tapley (Peterborough area) 59.9 24.5 35.4 144.5 2006
Toronto Pearson 58.9 25.1 33.8 134.7 2006
Hartington (near Kingston) 65.2 32.7 32.5 99.4 2006
Wiarton 52.1 22.6 29.5 130.5 2013
London 62.4 33.4 29.0 86.8 2013
Trenton 60.4 34.2 26.2 76.6 2012

Record snowfall readings (in cm), ranked by variation from normal: 

Location Snowfall Normal Difference Anomaly (%) Previous Record
Toronto City 3.6 37.2 -33.6 -90.3 1933 (5.3)

Unusual snowfall readings (in cm), ranked by variation from normal: 

Location Snowfall Normal Difference Anomaly (%) Least snow since
Hamilton 9.6 40.8 -31.2 -76.5 1962
Hartington (near Kingston) 30.0 49.5 -19.5 -39.4 2015
Toronto Pearson 10.5 29.5 -19.0 -64.4 2006 (4th since 1938)
Trenton 27.2 44.8 -17.6 -39.3 2015
Ottawa 38.4 53.9 -15.5 -28.8 2014


Location Snowfall Normal Difference Anomaly (%) Most snow since
Sault Ste. Marie 99.9 80.2 19.7 24.6 2014
Muskoka 106.0 87.2 18.8 21.6 2015
Moosonee 58.2 39.9 18.3 45.9 2016
Kenora 44.5 28.4 16.1 56.7 2014

Unusual precipitation readings (in mm), ranked by variation from normal:

Location Precipitation Normal Difference Anomaly (%) Wettest since
Kitchener/Waterloo 115.8 65.2 50.6 77.6 1999
Shanty Bay 131.2 88.8 42.4 47.7 2004
Wiarton 137.7 99.5 38.2 38.4 2014
Sarnia 81.7E 51.5 30.2 58.6 2013
Muskoka 123.0 93.0 30.0 32.3 2008
Tapley (Peterborough area) 86.5 57.4 29.1 50.7 2016
Petawawa * 79.2 52.0 27.2 52.3 2012

* identifies that the 1971-2000 normals are used. The 1981-2010 normals are used for the remainder of the stations.

E indicates an estimated value 


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