Winter 2018 will be colder than last year, but forecasters split on how bad it will get

Canadian weather forecasters are split over what kind of winter we can expect in 2018 - and how much of a role global warming has to play.

La Nina phenomenon usually means heavy snowfalls, but global warming has made for warmer and warmer weather

One forecaster is predicting this winter will be similar to the one in 2007-2008, when parts of southern Ontario saw record snowfall. (Dario Ayala/Reuters)

Canadians can expect a colder winter than last year — but forecasters are split about how bad it will actually be. 

Chris Scott, The Weather Network's chief meteorologist, said the message from his forecast team is "buckle up because it looks like a stormy winter."

Scott said this year's La Nina weather system bears a striking resemblance to that of 2007-2008, when Toronto recorded its snowiest winter ever.

"History tells us that when we have cooler waters off the coast of South America, that's La Nina, and those winters tend to be classic Canadian winters."

'Weak' La Nina

Dave Phillips, senior climatologist at Environment Canada, disagrees, pointing out that this year's La Nina system is "weak" and won't pack the kind of punch seen in past years. 

"It's almost as if global warming [and] climate change have kind of tempered the La Ninas and made them not as brutal as in the '50s, '60s, and '70s," he said. 

Environment Canada is still working on its winter predictions, but Phillips said the early forecast shows that "it might be a milder than normal winter in the Great Lakes area and eastern Canada, and yes maybe colder out west, where we see the winter's already begun." 

'Winters aren't what they used to be' 

Scott's forecast calls for storms with a lot of snow in December in the eastern half of Canada, while in the western half of the county, the winter conditions are expected to start in January.

He also expects winter in Canada to linger, meaning snowstorms could continue into March.

But Phillips said despite calls for a "classic" Canadian winter wonderland, he doesn't see 2018 looking like the white seasons of memory.

"Our winters aren't what they used to be. Oldtimers are right, winters really have changed," he said, adding that weather data reflects the trend. 

This year will be colder than the last, but that's not hard to do, said Phillips. 

"This one we don't think will be brutal. It may be a little cooler than last winter, but last winter we had the seventh warmest in 70 years," he said.