Calgary winter sees fewer extremely cold days, less snowfall than normal

If this winter feels milder to you, there's a reason for that.

We hope we're not jinxing it by saying this, but this season has actually been milder than usual

A businessman walks in a snowy downtown Calgary in a previous winter. This one has seen less snow than normal. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

If this winter feels milder to you, there's a reason for that.

"You're seeing fewer of those days that you really have to bundle up for — those face-numbing, tough, prairie kinds of days," said David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada.

"They've been almost missing in action."

So far this winter, only four days in Calgary have seen temperatures plunge below - 20 C, Phillips said, compared to 12 days by the same time last winter.

The normal for this point in the season is 16 days below -20 C, Phillips said.

In addition, Calgary has seen less snow this winter than normal, and far less than last year at this time.

Phillips said 54 centimetres of the white stuff has fallen on the city so far in the 2015/16 season, compared to 115 centimetres last season. The normal is 63 centimetres.

Temperature swings have also been been less extreme this winter.

Looking just at January, for example, the difference between the highest temperature reached (10.7 C on Jan. 28) and the lowest temperature reached (-26.0 C on Jan. 9) was 36.7 C.

Last year, January saw temperature swings of 42.2 C.

Explore the data for yourself below.

Click on this interactive graph to see the maximum, minimum and average temperatures for January over the past 16 years. (Data for 2008, unfortunately, was not available.)

Phillips said the so-called super El Nino is largely behind the milder winter this year, but noted there is a longer-term trend at play, too.

"The old-timers are right when they say the winters aren't what they used to be," he said.

"We look at all of the data for rural and urban and suburban and what have you, and it shows clearly a trend that recent decades have been warmer."

Tyler Kosaka, general manager of Out There Adventure Centre in Calgary, said his retail store has seen "quite different" sales patterns when it comes to winter gear in the past couple of years.

Tyler Kosaka, general manager of Out There Adventure Centre, says his store has been selling fewer heavily insulated coats in recent winters as customers lean toward thinner clothing. (Andrew Brown/CBC)

"We're definitely seeing a different pattern as to when we sell the more heavily insulated gear," Kosaka said, noting previous years would often see the warmest outdoor clothing nearly sell out before Christmas.

"Now, we'll see the bigger ones hitting the sales rack a little later in the season and hanging out a little longer in the stores," he said.

"We still see quite a few purchases for the thinner or medium-weight insulated pieces, but definitely the insulated stuff, the heavy stuff, is hanging out."


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