Not since the grunge era and Brian Mulroney's days as prime minister has Canada experienced a winter quite as bitter as the one expected to creep in this December, Environment Canada forecasted on Friday.


Alex Pawsey shields herself from the elements with an umbrella while crossing St. George's Square in Guelph, Ont. on Thursday, March 1, 2007. ((Canadian Press/ Guelph Mercury/ Darren Calabrese))

In its first winter outlook of the year, the agency predicts that until February, climates across most of the country will be the coldest in 15 years, with the exception of a small pocket in southern Ontario.

Environment Canada senior climatologist David Phillips said the trend in recent years of uncharacteristically warm, short winters will bewiped outby a chilly reminder of what a real Canadian winter feels like.

Although it won't necessarily be "the winter from hell or face-numbing wind chills every time," Phillips said temperature-wise, "we could have conditions that would be perhaps three-quarters or a degree colder than normal."

Colder air this year is expected to drive down temperatures.

"We think that with La Nina — which encourages more Canadian air, more Siberian air, whatever you want to call it, Alaskan air — it tends to be more of that flow," he said, referring to the phenomenon of lower-than-normal temperatures in the Pacific Ocean.

The cooler climate will likely also blanket some cities with snow after years without a white Christmas, he said.


A hydrant in the St. John's area is obscured by snow. ((Canadian Press))

Last year, a number of traditionally cold and snow-covered cities such as Quebec City, Ottawa and Timmins, Ont., had their first green Christmas in decades.

There are several up-sides to the mercury dipping, Phillips said. Winter sports enthusiasts might embrace the cooler winter, as would businesses that rely on the snow.

"I always think it's good for the economy when weather is behaving like it should, when winters are cold and summers are hot," he said, adding more people will likely book holidays to escape the harsh weather.

With files from the Canadian Press