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Wild Summer Weather In Canada -
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Beautiful photo of the Canadian Rockies

The weather in Canada is subject to severe thunderstorms, hail, tornadoes, heat waves as well as severe air pollution events throughout the warmer months.

From mid-autumn through to early spring, you should expect ice storms, blizzards and coastal storms and the occasional flooding.

While this may sound like gloom and doom, it's not. Most of these extreme weather events are confined to specific areas within Canada.

So you can be assured that while one part of Canada may be experiencing terrible weather, the other regions are not.



The purpose of this web page is to help you determine which months experience the worst weather in Canada and where this normally occurs.

This should make it a little easier for you if you're thinking of travelling to Canada for a holiday. All you have to do is match your arrival with the 'nicer weather'. This is sometimes easier said than done since the weather in Canada can be unpredictable. Having said that, I think this weather in Canada guide will still be beneficial.






Does Canada ever get hit by hurricanes?


You may not realise that the far eastern parts of Canada around Nova Scotia are occasionally subject to hurricanes in the summer. There have been only two hurricanes that have hit this area in the last 60 years.

The most recent hurricane to hit Nova Scotia occurred on the 29th September 2003. It was rated as a category 2 hurricane. Hurricane Juan as it was called caused widespread destruction to housing, power poles and general infrastructure. It also flattened millions of trees and consequently the region looked like a bomb had hit it.

The only time hurricanes maintain their intensity and travel this far north is when the ocean temperatures are well above average.






Heat waves in Canada


The most frequent location where there's heat wave weather in Canada is in the southern parts of Ontario, as well as the Prairies and the St. Lawrence River Valley in Québec. These heat waves can last up to five or more days with the temperature not dropping below 32°C (90°F).


Heat waves in southeastern Canada

Toronto normally experiences up to four severe heat wave episodes every year, which makes Toronto the most frequent location in Canada for heat waves. Ottawa comes in at a close second to Toronto.

Montreal also experiences some major heat waves. However, the daytime maximum temperatures during these heat waves are not as high as those that occur in Toronto and Ottawa.

In the summer of 1999, Ottawa experienced 26 days when the daytime maximum temperature exceeded 30°C. Such high temperatures for this length of time are quite unusual in Ottawa since Ottawa normally experiences temperatures above 30°C for only 12 days per year.

If you're thinking of staying in this part of Canada during the summer, you must be prepared not only to deal with the heat but also with the possibility of smog. Nearly every time there's an extended period of hot weather in Canada, you can expect that you'll be breathing in high levels of unhealthy air.


Heat waves in the Prairies

The only other region in Canada that has frequent heat waves occurs in the Prairies. In the Prairies, while the overnight temperatures in the summer can still be cold, the daytime maximum temperatures can get exceedingly hot. You may find this large range in temperature uncomfortable if you happen to arrive in the Prairies during heat wave conditions.

Both Winnipeg and Saskatoon can experience extreme maximum temperatures equalling Ottawa so make sure you can get air conditioning during during these times. Thankfully, these high temperatures don't last as long in the Prairies as they do in southern Ontario and Québec.


When do these heat waves occur?

Most of these heat waves occur during mid-to-late summer (July and August). However, that doesn't mean that you have escaped the hot weather if you travel outside these months. You may surprised to learn that temperatures exceeding 30°C have occurred as early as 20th May and as late as the second week of September. Outside these dates, you can be pretty sure that the hot weather is finished.

Canada's longest lasting heat wave persisted for 10 days in August, 1953. The heat wave began on 25th August and ended on the 3rd September.

Such hot weather in Canada led to many elderly people becoming hospitalised due to heat exhaustion since many citizens didn't have access to air conditioning.






Beware of tornadoes


While Canada doesn't experience the same number of tornadoes as the United States, it still averages about 60 a year. However, each year the total number of recorded tornadoes varies considerably. For example, back in 1995, 40 tornadoes were recorded, but in 1994 there was 95 tornadoes.

Canada's most powerful tornado hit the community of Elic, Manitoba, on the 22nd June 2007. This tornado was Canada's first officially recorded F5 tornado. It was filmed on amateur video, which was reviewed by meteorologists at Environment Canada, who estimated the wind speed was in excess of 400 km/hr (250mph).

The eastern parts of Canada normally have more tornadoes and a slightly longer tornado season than the western parts of Canada. In fact, the most frequent location in Canada for tornadoes is along the southeastern coast of Lake Huron (near Windsor) in southern Ontario. You can probably guess why the tornado weather in Canada is concentrated in this narrow region. The United States tornado alley extends into this part of Ontario.

If you're planning to stay in and around southern Ontario you must be aware that the majority of the tornadoes are normally hidden from view. So if you're deciding to travel when there's a severe storm nearby, whatever you do, don't drive into the storm. It's quite common that the intense precipitation will block your view of an approaching tornado. So by the time you do see it, it may be too late.
Severe thunderstorm located over the Canadian prairies

You can guarantee that the majority of tornadoes will strike between 2pm and 8pm, since most severe thunderstorms form only during daylight hours when there's a warm surface. Although, occasionally tornadoes may arrive as late as 10pm.

You can expect tornado weather in Canada to be quite common at the places I have listed below.

  1. Southern Ontario
  2. South eastern and south-central Saskatchewan (around Saskatoon)
  3. South-central Alberta (around Edmonton)
  4. Just south of Winnipeg (Manitoba)
  5. Southern Québec (tornadoes don't occur as frequently in this region)


The majority of tornado weather in Canada occurs in early-to-mid-summer (June and July). So obviously the best time for you to travel to Canada so as to avoid tornadoes is from mid-August through to May.

However, I wouldn't be deterred from travelling to Canada during the summer since it's highly unlikely that you'll see a tornado unless you deliberately go and look for one.

There are places in Canada you can go to that rarely get tornadoes even in the so-called tornado season.


Tornadoes rarely affect such areas as:

  • Northwest Territories
  • Nunavut
  • Yukon Territory
  • Newfoundland
  • Nova Scotia
  • New Brunswick (twelve have been reported from 1980-1997)






Hailstorms in Canada


While it's relatively easy to keep away from tornadoes, hailstorms are a entirely different matter. Hailstorm weather in Canada is far more common than tornadoes.

While the hailstorm season runs from May-September, you can expect hailstorms almost daily during July and August. So if you're planning to hire a vehicle, make sure you're insured. You don't want to be put in a situation where have to fork out money that was to be meant to be used on your holiday.

Canada's most costly hailstorm hit Calgary on the 7th September 1991. It caused approximately $343 million (1997 figure) in insured damage. Hailstorms are also Canada's costliest (with respect to insured costs) severe weather phenomena.

Hailstorms are far more frequent and severe over southern inland British Columbia as well as in Alberta than anywhere else in Canada. While that may encouraging for you if you're not planning to travel to those areas, just beware hail can still occur anywhere in southern Canada.

Here's a list of locations where severe hailstorms can strike any time between May and September:

  • Alberta (largest number just east of the Rockies)
  • South-central British Columbia
  • Other parts of central and eastern prairies (Saskatchewan and Manitoba)
  • South-western Ontario





General weather in Canada


You probably know that the weather in Canada has large fluctuations in temperature since the Canadian land mass spans great distances in both north-south and east-west directions. So it comes as no surprise that the climate and weather in Canada varies considerably depending upon your location.

Rainfall across Canada

The coastal parts of British Columbia have the wettest weather in Canada since the warm Pacific Ocean currents and favourable winds combined with high topography nearby produce torrential rain during the winter months. In comparison, the eastern coastline of Canada is not as wet as it is in the west, but generally this region has higher rainfall totals than most of central and northern Canada due to its close proximity to the sea.

In the summer months (June, July and August), the prevailing wind direction changes and so the weather conditions that led to the formation of wet weather in British Columbia are typically deflected away from the coastline. But in many other parts of Canada during the summer, rainfall intensities increase due to frequent occurrence of thunderstorms during the afternoon. This leads to flash flooding in the summer months. For example, the region around southern Ontario has a large number of thunderstorms and these produce most of the rain days in this area of Canada.

The driest region in Canada is located at Eureka on Ellesmere Island, which is located only about 960 kilometres south of the North Pole. This region normally has only 50 millimetres of precipitation annually. Most of it falls in the form of snow. However, during the late summer to early autumn of 1997 and 2000, both August and September temperatures plummeted and the region experienced twice as much precipitation (snow) than usual.


Temperatures across Canada

Since about the mid-1970s, western Canada has been experiencing warmer winter and spring temperatures. What you may find surprising is that eastern Canada have had generally colder winters and springs.

Generally, the western parts of Canada are warmer in the winter than the eastern parts. Whereas, in the summer, the eastern districts are hotter since this region is under the influence of air masses coming in from the south. The northern parts of Canada are nearly always cold. The central areas, like the prairies are influenced by many air masses and for that reason the weather here is quite unpredictable.

The prairie district of Canada suffers from harsh winters and short hot summers. This region is not influenced by Pacific Oceanic sources since the Rocky Mountains block the progression of moist, rain bearing clouds moving into the area. You can expect that the prairies has some of the worst weather conditions in all of Canada. In the summer, severe hailstorms frequently hit the region and in the winter, ice storms and blizzards become the norm.

If you're looking for winter warmth, then there's hardly anywhere in Canada you can escape to that's above 0°C. Yes I'm talking about the maximum temperature. The most common region that experiences temperatures above freezing in the winter is the coastal parts of British Columbia. However, that doesn't mean that you have escaped the snow and ice. British Columbia still gets heaps of snow.

If you're hoping to visit Vancouver when it's not wet, then don't visit during November and December. During these months the rain can last for days on end. When the sun does return it won't be out for too long before it clouds roll over and the rain returns.

In comparison, the driest months of the year are also the warmest. Although, you still have to make sure that during the summer months, you don't get caught in hailstorms since they are quite common in the inland parts of British Columbia.

If I haven't answered all your questions relating to the weather in Canada, please feel free to contact me.





References

  1. Bao Z, Ye H and Taylor PA. Summer regional rainfall over southern Ontario and its associations with outgoing longwave radiation and moisture convergence. Meteorological Applications. 2005;12(2):161-167.

  2. Barton J. Canada-wide standards and innovative transboundary air quality initiatives. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health; Part A. 2008;71:74-80.

  3. Etkin D and Brun SE. A note on Canada's hail climatology: 1977-1993. International Journal of Climatology. 1999;19:1357-1373.

  4. Etkin D, Brun SE, Shabbar A and Joe P. Tornado climatology of Canada revisted: tornado activity during different phases of ENSO. International Journal of Climatology. 2001;21:915-938.

  5. Nirupama N and Simonovic SP. Increase of flood risk due to urbanisation: a Canadian example. Natural Hazards. 2007;40:25-41.

  6. Skinner WR, Flannigan MD, Stocks BJ, Martell DL, Wotton BM, Todd JB, Mason JA, Logan KA and Bosch EM. A 500hPa synoptic wildland fire climatology for large Canadian forest forests, 1959-1996. Theoretical and applied climatology. 2002;71:157-169.

  7. Smoyer-Tomic KE, Kuhn R and Hudson A. Heat wave hazards: an overview of heat wave impacts in Canada. Natural Hazards. 2003;28:463-485.

  8. Tanentzap AJ, Taylor P, Yan ND and Salmon JR. On Sudbury-area wind speeds. A tale of forest generation. Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology. 2007;46(10):1645-1654.



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