Experts say weather extremes are likely here to stay. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Weather extremes a new fact of life for Canadians: experts

Cherry blossoms are blooming early in Victoria, while central Canada had extreme cold warnings

As Ottawa limps across the finish line of its snowiest January on record, cherry blossoms are blooming at the legislature in coastal Victoria.

Millions of Canadians were hiding out this week under extreme cold warnings stretching across the map, even as some East Coast cities enjoyed moderate temperatures.

READ MORE: Cherry blossoms are blooming early in Victoria

According to experts, these co-existing extremes have been predicted for some time — and they’re likely here to stay.

“This is the kind of thing people have been predicting for years,” said Konrad Gajewski, a professor of geography and environment at the University of Ottawa.

“This kind of pattern of more alternation, more extremes, both in terms of warm and cold conditions is what we’re expecting for the future.”

Central Canada’s cold snap comes from the oscillating upper wind patterns of the jet stream, pushing the cold air down from the north with the polar vortex.

At the same time, the large “waves” in the wind patterns push some warm air north, explaining comparatively warm temperatures on the coasts.

READ MORE: Parts of Midwest colder than Antarctica during deep freeze

The exact role climate change plays in the pattern’s changes is an ongoing discussion in the scientific community, but a common belief says it’s the result of a warming Arctic.

“It’s thought that as the Arctic warms up because the ice is melting back, we’re going to have more of a situation where you have what we call ‘waviness’ in the polar vortex,” Gajewski said.

This “waviness” in the upper wind’s pattern could be carrying cold further and further south into south and central Canada, and pushing warm air further north along the coast.

Atmospheric physics professor Kent Moore at the University of Toronto says the striking weather patterns show how the world’s climate system is intimately coupled, and how changes in the coldest and warmest regions can be felt in central Canadian cities.

As an example, he pointed to the theory that the waves in upper wind patterns are moving slower, with larger amplitudes as a possible result of warming in the Arctic.

“The largest changes in the climate are occurring in the Arctic and some would say, ‘Who cares? I live in mid-latitudes, why should I care about that stuff?’” Moore said.

“The Earth is kind of a small place and so things that happen in the Arctic don’t stay in the Arctic.”

This interconnectedness of the world’s climate system also explains the impacts from El Nino systems on Canada, Moore said.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Let the Games begin!

Team Alberta takes home gold and silver in speed skating on day one

WATCH: Historic night in Red Deer as 2019 Canada Winter Games kicks off

Star-studded Opening Ceremony features athletes from across Canada

Athletes’ medals unveiled at the official kick-off of 2019 Canada Winter Games

Medals depict Central Alberta landscape and pay tribute to First Nations

Sylvan Lake looks to add an adopt-a-road program

A policy for the newly proposed program will come forward to council at a later date

WATCH: Canada Winter Games are finally here

Final leg of torch relay kicked off at Fort Normandeau

Trudeau’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts, resigns amid SNC-Lavalin furor

Butts categorically denies the accusation that he or anyone else in the PMO improperly pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calls for public inquiry over SNC-Lavalin questions

Vancouver member of Parliament Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet last week

Body found after apparent house explosion in Calgary, police investigating

Sgt. Dwayne Lepchuk declined to say whose remains were found

Canadian airlines waiting for guidance from Ottawa over X gender option

Major U.S. airlines said they will change their process so passengers can identify themselves along non-binary lines

Deported B.C. man who came to Canada as a baby granted chance at return

Len Van Heest was deported to the Netherlands in 2017

Sex abuse survivors to meet with Vatican summit organizers

Pope Francis has urged participants to meet with abuse victims before they came to Rome

Ex-FBI official: ‘Crime may have been committed’ by Trump

Andrew McCabe said FBI had good reason to open a counterintelligence investigation into whether Trump was in league with Russia

Most Read