Big temperature swings normal, says climatologist
Written by Ben Pelton
By Dan Pelton
Staff Reporter, Orangeville Citizen
As this was being written Tuesday night, the area was being drenched by what looked remarkably like an April shower, with the temperature soaring into double digits. But when you step outside to pick up your paper this afternoon, the forecasters say you will be in a paradise … for polar bears.
So far, the winter of 2012-13 has featured temperatures both well above and the normal high of about –4º C. There have been few days when they were actually normal. While some experts are pointing to climate change as a pivotal factor in weather fluctuations, Environment Canada’s senior climatologist says temperature changes are par for the course.
“There’s a difference between climate and temperature,” explained David Phillips in an interview.
“The wild swings in temperature have had nothing to do with climate. It’s about where the winds come from.”
The recent warming trend, for example, was caused by breezes blowing in from the southern United States.
“This thaw did not come out of our chimneys and exhaust pipes,” said Mr. Phillips. “It came out of Colorado.”
In a recent interview with Global News, an Environment Canada meteorologist said warming trends across the country will mean more severe blasts of rain, wind, snow and heat from Mother Nature. Bob Robichaud, a warning preparedness meteorologist, said 2012 was the 16th year in a row that saw higher than normal temperatures across Canada.
Over the last 10 years, just four of 40 seasons were cooler than normal.
“So that certainly is a trend there,” Mr. Robichaud told Global News.
“The climate-change experts are saying that we’re going to get heavier rainfall events and more frequent non-tropical type storms. So in that respect, we have to be ready for it.”
Mr. Phillips predicted that the remainder of the local winter should be, for the most part, warmer than average. He did, however, warn that locals should not look forward to a repeat of last March, when the thermometer jumped to a point where people were walking the streets in shorts and tank tops.
“In my 40 years in the business, that was one of the most spectacular anomalies I have ever seen.
“Temperatures may be milder than normal, but don’t expect to be drinking beer out on the patio.”
Canada experienced severe heat waves in 2012, as well as extreme flooding in B.C. and an over-active hurricane season that culminated in Sandy. The massive Atlantic hurricane collided with another weather system in late October, tore through New Jersey and caused losses estimated at more than $65 billion.
Mr. Phillips said people should be prepared to bundle up for the next 10 days or so, with temperatures expected to drop below average.He also predicted we have not seen the last of the snow.
While he was not denying evidence of climate change, Mr. Phillips hinted that the temperature swings can be explained, noting that differences in warmth in various regions are more extreme during the winter.
“It’s just nature behaving in its schizophrenic way.”