‘It just didn’t happen:’ Toronto’s winter was cancelled, Environment Canada climatologist says

A senior climatologist with Environment Canada says winter was “cancelled” in Toronto as it has been unseasonably warm this season.

“Winter didn’t happen. It was cancelled in the Toronto area. And that was probably the situation right across the country,” Dave Phillips said in an interview with CTV News Toronto Thursday.

“It was balmy, tropical. I can’t think of better warm words to describe what this winter (has been). It just didn’t happen.”

Phillips added that Toronto has never seen a warmer December, January and February until this season. The city usually sees 34 days of -10 C within those three months, but Toronto only recorded nine cold days.

“It was actually slightly warmer than normal, and almost about four and a half degrees warmer than you’d normally expect,” Phillips said.

“There’s never been a warmer winter in more than a century and a half for the downtown area.”

While he was not surprised, Phillips said it was still shocking to see the numbers. In February alone, several high-temperature records were broken in Toronto.


Ahead of this winter, forecasters warned that the climate phenomenon known as El Niño would play a factor and lead to above-average temperatures and lower-than-normal precipitation levels.

El Niño occurs when the surface temperature in the tropical region of the Pacific Ocean extending westward from Ecuador rises, affecting the global jet stream pattern.

Phillips said that besides El Niño, which he noted was the third warmest in 70 years, climate change is also behind the mild winter.

“We know our winters are not what they used to be. We still may be the Great White North, but boy, you wouldn’t know it by our winters. They just are so tame and open and soft compared to years before,” Phillips said.

“All of those forces were moving in the same direction — El Niño, warm oceans, climate change.”

The senior climatologist added that the extraordinarily warm winter season was felt globally.

“There’s never been a warmer winter globally than what we saw in December, January and February. (It’s) quite remarkable,” Phillips said.


Although spring officially begins in less than two weeks, Phillips said residents should not put away their snow shovels just yet.

He noted that Toronto typically sees 20 centimetres of snow this month.

“I mean, you can be seduced into thinking winter’s not going to happen, but sometimes we know that nature … really has the trump card here, and I would never bet against a winter return to wintry weather,” Phillips said.

“The only thing, if it does occur, it is usually short-lived, and what comes in one day nature can take away in the next day in terms of snow.”

And Toronto may get some snow this weekend. On Friday, there will be a mix of sun and clouds with a high of 9 C and a 40 per cent chance of showers late in the evening.

It will be wet on Saturday with rain or snow in the forecast and a high 6 C and a low of -1 C.

On Sunday, flurries are expected with a high of 2 C.