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It still looks a lot like winter in Yellowknife, although temperatures rose yesterday to a high of 9 C and are expected to stay around 10 degrees through the weekend. - Laura Busch/NNSL photo

Cold temperatures stay longer
2012/13 season did not break records, but 'winter went on too long:' climatologist

Laura Busch
Northern News Services
Published Friday, May 3, 2013

The winter of 2012/13 may not go down in the history books as one that broke records, but it has been a long, cold season nonetheless, said a senior climatologist with Environment Canada.

"The winter has been long and it certainly has been colder than normal, and certainly colder than last year," said David Phillips. "The real killer for Canadians, I find, is when March and April are colder than normal. We almost feel like we're owed better weather at this time."

Whatever Yellowknifers feel they are entitled to, winter has kept its grip on the territory - although at press time temperatures were expected to increase to a more reasonable 10 C by Friday afternoon.

Although the weather break may be well deserved, Phillips cautioned that the snowy season is likely not over yet.

In the last 70 years, there have been just five Mays without snow, he said. An average of five cm usually falls during the month.

"Don't be shocked if you see the white stuff in the air," he said. "But remember, typically, what's here today is gone tomorrow."

This winter may have been especially hard for some to bear because of the record-breaking warm winter Yellowknife had last year, said Phillips. While this winter was remarkable different from last, it was closer to normal - which is good for the climate but hard on the bones.

Environment Canada does not keep statistics on the length of the winter season, but if it did Phillips thinks this one would be a contender for longest winter on record because of the consistent cold temperatures from November to April with a bit of a break in February.

When the cold drags on into the spring months, it can become tough for people, he said.

"When you look at the difference from normal, it is much greater in April than in any other winter months," said Phillips. "This time of year, people start to expect better, so they can feel cheated."

When asked what the colder-than-normal temperatures in April means in terms of summer weather, Phillips could not say.

"What that tells you is winter went on too long," he said.

Looking at expectations for the summer, Environment Canada is calling for a warmer-than-normal season for the prairies and the southern NWT. However, Yellowknife sits in the zone marked "normal." So, will this summer make up for the long, cold winter? Only time will tell.

NNSL photo/graphic

Winter 2012 - 2013 in Yellowknife

Average temperature by month (70-year average)

  • November: -16.4 C (-13.8 C)
  • December: -25.8 C (-23.7 C)
  • January: -28.1 C (-26.8 C)
  • February: -19 C (-23.4 C)
  • March: -18.4 C (-17.3 C)
  • April: -8.9 C (-5.3 C)

Days below -30 C:

  • 2012/13: 61
  • 2011/12: 21
  • 70-year average: 54


  • 2012/13: 116 cm
  • 2011/12: 152 cm

Source: Environment Canada

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