After relatively mild NWT fall, Environment Canada forecasts winter to be one to two degrees warmer than average

Environment Canada Sr. Climatologist David Phillips (Photo courtesy of Saskatchewan Science Centre)

After a relatively mild fall across the Northwest Territories, Environment Canada’s most recognizable forecaster is calling for our winter to be slightly warmer than normal.

Senior Climatologist David Phillips acknowledges that autumn technically has three more weeks left in it but says it’ll likely finish milder than usual.

Phillips also says he expects winter to be one to two degrees warmer than average.

He also says even though March is more than three months away we shouldn’t expect the wildly mild temperatures we had last March to repeat in 2020.

It was so warm last March that the world-renowned Snow Castle on Yellowknife Bay had to close early after it started to sink on the ice.

Yellowknife’s annual winter carnival, the Long John Jamboree, also in March, had to be moved indoors from the bay due to mild, slushy conditions on the frozen Great Slave Lake.

He says weather-wise, it’s been so far, so good.

“I look at this fall (in the NWT) compared to last fall and it’s not been warm, warm, warm but temperatures for September, October and November were slightly warmer than usual. November and September were a half degree milder than usual while October was more than a full degree warmer than normal. It’s not been record warm but you are already ahead of the game,” Phillips told CKLB. “The snowfall amounts have been less than normal. You’ve had about 39 centimetres of snow in the past three months where you would normally have about 61.”

Phillips adds that it would be difficult to describe the fall as brutal anywhere in the NWT.

He says it’s when winter runs from September until June that people start to get a little excited and occasionally depressed.

Phillips says many forecasters are calling for a colder than usual winter in much of southern Canada.

But he says he does not think that will be the case across the county at least not in the western half of Canada’s North.

“We’re calling for it to be milder than normal.  But if you are planning a trip to Hawaii or Arizona – still go for it. We’re not cancelling winter by any means. What it means is the length of winter, the intensity of winter won’t be as noticeable,”  The U.S. National Weather Service is also calling for Alaska to have a warmer than normal winter.  We always feel good when our long-range forecast aligns with other weather services.”

Phillips says warmer water in the northern Pacific Ocean will be our most impactful weather-maker this winter. He adds they are not expecting an “El Nino” weather phenomenon in the Pacific which can create extremely mild weather.

Phillips says we will still get several days of -30 celsius or colder but perhaps just not as many of them.

(Photo from Owen Rowe, Fort Simpson, NT)

He is not expecting weather to negatively impact three important winter events coming up in Yellowknife – Hockey Day in Canada in February and the Long John Jamboree and the Snow Castle in March.

Phillips adds that they use their weather models to come up with the most accurate long-range forecast they can but says no one should go out and bet the farm on the Environment Canada prediction.

Phillips notes that long-range weather forecasting is an imperfect science and it’s still quite possible that their prediction could turn out to be wrong.

About the Author

John McFadden
John has been in the broadcast journalism industry since the 1980s. He has been a reporter in Yellowknife since 2012 and joined CKLB in January of 2018. John covers the crime and court beat as well as reporting on other areas including politics, business, entertainment and sports. He won seven national community newspaper awards while he was a journalist with Northern News Services Limited (NNSL). John worked in Ontario before coming North including stints as a TV sportscaster in Peterborough and senior news writer for CBC and CTV in downtown Toronto.