Short winter possible for Ottawa, Environment Canada predicts

Most of January will be colder than normal, but spring may arrive earlier, according to Environment Canada senior climatologist Dave Phillips.

Senior climatologist expects good ice-building weather for Winterlude 2019

Environment Canada senior climatologist Dave Phillips predicts this winter will be shorter than last season's. (Leah Hansen/CBC)

Most of January will be colder than normal, but spring may arrive earlier, according to Environment Canada senior climatologist Dave Phillips.

He predicts this month's chill won't set in right away, with the first week of January bringing see-sawing conditions.

But after that there will be more cold, and more snow that will actually stick around. While Ottawa got plenty of snow in November, most of it melted away.

The dead of winter, the coldest days of the year, will probably be Jan. 22 and 23 — and then temperatures will slowly start to climb up, Phillips said.

Good conditions for Winterlude predicted

There's potentially some good news for this year's Winterlude festival, which runs from Feb. 1-18.

"[There will be] polar vortex, Siberian express kind of weather and that may be just great for growing ice for the Winterlude," Phillips said. 

Phillips predicts the last three weeks of January will be cold and snowy. (Radio-Canada)

Overall he predicts a shorter winter than last season, with spring arriving in March, not early May as it did in 2018.

"It may not be … as long and maybe as brutal at times as what we saw last year," he said. 

But it's not an exact science. With shorter and shorter weather patterns, and it being an El Niño year — with warmer water in the Pacific Ocean — he said it's difficult to predict how February and March will turn out. 

Long-range models uncertain

While a strong or moderate El Niño year can indicate a milder than normal winter, Phillips said this year's long-range models have been uncertain. 

"El Niño can give you a little bit of a hint, a tease, as to what the winter's going to be, but hey, I wouldn't bet the family farm or the fishing fleet on it," he said. "There's never a guarantee with weather in the Ottawa area.

This year's Winterlude happens from Feb. 1-18, and it relies on cold, snow and ice. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

"We run our big computers in Montreal, the largest computers in Canada, and it comes out with our seasonal forecast. You know, one day it's showing milder than normal, the next day it's uncertain," said Phillips.

But overall, winters in Canada are not as icy and cold as they used to be and statistics show they are getting warmer. Phillips said it's definitely a factor for events such as Winterlude that rely on cold conditions.

In December, for example, there was more rain than snow. 

"When you see from the snowiest national capital in the world, to have more rain than snow in December, is just not what it normally would be," Phillips said.

About the Author

Krystalle Ramlakhan is a multi-platform journalist with CBC Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I., Winnipeg and Iqaluit.

With files from the CBC's Amanda Pfeffer


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.