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So long, normal weather: Toronto just had the warmest February on record

Record highs and days of melting temperatures effectively erased 'the look and the feel of winter' in February, says Environment Canada's senior climatologist Dave Phillips.

Expect the unexpected and get used to temperature swings, says climatologist Dave Phillips

A record-breaking February for Toronto meant plenty of sunshine and warm days. (Daniel Bach/CBC)

It's official — Toronto just lived through the warmest February in at least 80 years, says Dave Phillips, senior climatologist at Environment Canada.

"It also had the warmest February temperature ever, up to 17.7 C on the 23rd," which broke records going back to the 1840s, he told CBC Radio's Metro Morning.

The month didn't start off this way.

"We had temperatures at -12 C," said Phillips. "We had a month's worth of snow in the first ten days."

After that, the jet stream, a narrow band of strong wind, moved "almost into a summer position, well north of us in Northern Ontario. It allowed the warm air to just flood into Southern Ontario," he said.

All that warm air led to 12 days in a row with melting record temperatures. "So clearly, the look and the feel of winter disappeared in February," Phillips said.

Enjoying the weather, worrying about the climate

So are February's unseasonably warm temperatures a sure sign of climate change?

"I'm reluctant to always go there," said Phillips.

He said that it's the wild swings over the last few years, the absence of "normal weather," that is more of a tip-off.

"We had the coldest February on record two winters ago, here we have the warmest. That back-and-forth, up-and-down is more a mark that something is happening to our climate," he said.

"We say, 'Enjoy the weather but be concerned about the climate.'"