Temperatures are expected to dip below freezing in much of the North later this week, but most Canadians can take comfort in Environment Canada's forecast for a relatively warm, dry winter.

A broad swath of the country from the St. Lawrence River extending north and west to the Yukon is expected to experience temperatures that are warmer than normal.

Environment Canada's forecast for December, January and February shows the effects of a strengthening El Nino — a warming of the tropical Pacific sea surface, accompanied by changes in winds and air pressure.

While this year's El Nino, which started gaining strength in September, is considered to be "weak to moderate," it will make itself felt in Canada this coming winter.

"We know El Nino is starting to take hold in the tropical Pacific and this is a typical imprint of El Nino in Canada," said Environment Canada meteorologist Amir Shabbar.

Warming effect

The warming effect of El Nino will not extend to the far northeast, including northern Newfoundland, Quebec and the Arctic islands. Temperatures there are expected to be below normal.

Elsewhere, precipitation is forecast to be below normal for eastern Ontario, Quebec, the Maritimes, southern British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. The three northern territories, along with the northern areas of the Prairie provinces, most of Manitoba, western Ontario and Newfoundland will experience more precipitation than normal.

Environment Canada's seasonal forecasts do not give specific estimates of how many degrees of temperature or millimetres of precipitation above or below normal is expected.

Forecasters with the National Weather Service in the United States are also predicting a warmer than normal winter across most of that country.

"The strengthening El Nino event will influence the position and strength of the jet stream over the Pacific Ocean, which in turn will affect winter precipitation and temperature patterns across the country," Michael Halpert, lead forecaster at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center, said in a statement.

"This event is likely to result in fewer cold air outbreaks in the country than would be expected to occur in a typical non-El Nino winter," Halpert said.

Almanac begs to differ

But the editors of this year's edition of the Canadian Farmers' Almanac, published every year at the end of August, offer some chilly predictions for the upcoming winter.

In a news release titled "Shivery is not dead," they predict widespread cold conditions, especially in the West.

The almanac forecasts frigid weather for Alberta andSaskatchewan, as well as for parts of Manitoba and eastern British Columbia, "where temperatures could average as much as 10° C below seasonal normals, or nearly 20° C colder than last winter."

In contrast, it calls for unseasonably mild temperatures in the Maritimes, as well as Newfoundland and Labrador, whileOntario and adjacent western Quebec are expected to have near normal winter temperatures.

"It is a contradiction with what we're saying," Environment Canada's Shabbar said. "I can't comment on their forecasts. They're pretty secretive about it."

According to the almanac's release, it "has been providing long-range weather predictions every year since 1818, bases its forecasts on a top secret mathematical and astronomical formula. Many who follow its predictions say they are 80 to 85% accurate."