If January seemed dreary, that's because there were 28 fewer hours of sunshine than average

So why was Toronto stuck in the dark for much of the month? We asked a climatologist from Environment Canada to find out.

Why was Toronto stuck in the dark for much of the month? We asked a climatologist

"There really was not very much sunshine to uplift our spirits," Environment Canada senior climatologist David Phillips said.

If you felt like 2017 started out pretty dark, you're right.

Toronto saw only about two-thirds of its average 85.9 hours of sunshine this month, the dreariest January on record since 1998. The poor souls that year saw only 36.5 hours of light that January — that breaks down to an average of 70 minutes to soak in the sun each day.

We didn't fare that much better this past month ourselves: we had only 16 days with measurable sunshine, according to Environment Canada's figures. The rest of January? Pure cloud. 

"You weren't imagining it," senior climatologist David Phillips told CBC's Metro Morning.

So why was Toronto stuck in the dark for a whole month?

January was 4th warmest in 80 years

Phillips said the recent dreary weeks have been sandwiched between a polar vortex in December and cool air at the end of January. "But in between, it was a flood of warm, moist air coming from the south," he said.

​While the northerly winds coming from the arctic bring cold, crisp air, those moist southerly winds are coming from the ocean or the Gulf of Mexico.

And that means more clouds.

"It's got to either be cold and dry, or cloudy and mild," says Phillips. "And it's about the source region where the air comes from."

Better bundle up, because temperatures are dropping. (Mark Cadiz/CBCNews)

December, Phillips noted, was actually colder than January, and this month had twice as much rain as normal.

There was also one bout of 174 hours straight — roughly nine days, from the 16th to the 24th — of melting temperatures in Toronto, something Phillips said is "unthinkable" for January.

"January was more like November, or March, in the sense of the warmth," he said. "It wasn't record-warm... but it was the fourth warmest in 80 years."

It's chillier now, though, with temperatures dropping to a low of —11 C by Thursday night.

Dark weather can take its toll

All this dreary, dark weather can have an impact on mental health.

"It makes you have heavy days or feel that the darkness is just a continuation of the night," said Loucia Beveridge, a peer support specialist at Canadian Mental Health Association's Routes Social Resource Centre in Toronto.

Beveridge, who has coped with her own severe mental health challenges in the past, said it's important to make time for friends and family, have creative outlets, and let people know if you're struggling.

The mild winter weather may be dreary, but it's actually made it easier to enjoy the outdoors. (David Donnelly/CBC)

"I really try to make a concerted effort to do things that help me stay well, like listening to music while I go for walks," she said, adding the mild winter weather has actually made it easier to enjoy the outdoors. 

But if you want to cancel plans to stay in and curl up with a book to beat the winter blues, that's another option.

"When the evenings get dark so quickly, it's hard to want to go out again when you come home from work," she said.

With files from Metro Morning