Is it accurate or appropriate to call record-setting September heat 'Indian Summer'?

It's been a string of record-setting hot days this September in northeastern Ontario. A few people have called this an "Indian summer" but is that correct? And more importantly, is it appropriate?

Hot September weather in the north has broken century-old records

People across northern Ontario have been enjoying unseasonably warm temperatures in September. (Erik White/CBC)

Vince Pawis knows the term 'Indian summer' isn't rooted in his Anishnabek culture.

But that description for an autumn warm spell has always been part of his life.

"I always just heard it as Indian summer. My mom would say 'This is our Indian summer.' And then the leaves would fall," recalls the executive director of the White Buffalo Healing Lodge near Shawanaga First Nation, on the shores of Georgian Bay, south of Sudbury.

"I don't view it as an offensive thing. It was always called that."

But Pawis says that this hot spell—that made it tough for him for find a moose to shoot for the traditional change of season feast he hosted this weekend— doesn't count, since it wasn't preceded by cold autumn weather.

Vince Pawis is executive director of the White Buffalo Healing Lodge in Shawanaga First Nation south of Sudbury. (Supplied )

That's also the understanding of Environment Canada meteorologist Peter Kimbell, although he says it's never been used by weather scientists as an "official term."

"I would doubt that people would term this as Indian summer at the beginning of the fall, because it is still possible to get warm temperatures," he says.

Some people define Indian summer more specifically as a hot weather that comes after a killing frost in the fall.

The origin of the name is quite murky, although does originate in North America. 

Some believe it was coined by European settlers who observed Indigenous people hunting during hot fall days. More derogatory theories say it refers to a summer that is not on time or one that is phony or fake.

The term has now migrated to other parts of the English speaking world, with newspaper articles in Britain and Australia now mentioning Indian summer. Although in other European countries, such as Germany, an autumn hot spell is traditionally called "old woman's summer" or "grandmother's summer."

Experts say that the unseasonably warm September could have an impact on fall colours across northern Ontario. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Whatever you call it, Kimbell says this has been a rare hotspell, caused by the jet stream shifting strangely to the north and carrying with it hot humid conditions and bringing a string of record-setting days in northern Ontario since the official start of autumn on Sept. 22.

"We have seen temperatures this warm in the past, the record temperature for the 24th was actually 1888 with 32.8 degrees C," says Kimbell.

"If you look back in the distant past, you do find some warm temperatures as well, but the string of hot days we're getting now is quite unusual."