Monthly weather forecast and climate

Flag of Canada
Flag of Canada

The climate of Canada

Canada has a mainly cold climate, with short, warm summers and long, frigid winters. The northern and central portions experience a subarctic climate (Köppen climate classification ET, Dfc). The extreme south is mostly humid continental (Köppen Dfa, Dfb), a small portion of which is a cold semi-arid desert (Köppen BSk). The southwestern Pacific coast has an oceanic climate (Köppen Cfb, Cfc). Canada lies in North America and shares a vast border with the United States in the south and Alaska in the northwest. The Pacific Ocean lies in the west, the Arctic in the north, and the Atlantic in the east. The high latitudes, lack of mountains to shield polar air masses, and cold currents are the main factors that influence the climate.

Three oceans together give Canada the longest coastline in the world spread over 151,000 miles. The Labrador current keeps the Atlantic coast colder than the Pacific coast. The landscape is diverse with mountains, plateaus, swamps, and consists of the largest freshwater lakes in the world. The Rocky Mountains block air masses from the west, while the Great Prairies to the east of the mountains have large populations due to warm conditions. Cold air from Siberia, the Siberian Express, brings extreme cold to the northwest. The winter temperatures are below freezing in much of Canada, except for British Columbia in the south. The western slopes of the Rocky Mountains receive up to 2032mm (80") of annual rainfall, and the climate is humid. Chinook winds at the foot of the mountains occasionally raise temperatures in the winter.

The Arctic regions up to Hudson Bay in the north have short summers of three months. Ice and permafrost dominate the Arctic region of Canada. The northwest region, including Yukon, sees warm summers with cool nights. The Great Plains in the Midwest occasionally experience temperatures above 37.8°C (100°F) in the summer. Precipitation is to the tune of 508mm (20") annually, but the plains see violent snowstorms in the winter. The Pacific coast has bright summers, with sea temperatures mild at best. The Great Lakes region in the south receives more than 1016mm (40") of rainfall annually and is prone to heavy snowfall. The east coast is mild and rainy in the summer, with periods of sunny weather. Winters are long, cold, and snowy in the eastern provinces. The mixing of cold and warm currents creates frequent fog near Newfoundland, particularly in the Grand Banks area.

Much of the upper half of Canada has only two seasons. Summers are short and warm, with cool nights. Winters are long and cold, with heavy snowfall and year-round snow cover. The Canadian Prairie is continental, with harsh winters that see temperatures below -40°C (-40°F). The regions in the temperate zone experience all four seasons. The average high temperatures range between 25°C (77°F) to 30°C (86°F) in the southern interior lands. Heat can exceed 40°C (104°F) in the hinterland during the hot season. The east and west coast has daily high temperatures above 21.1°C (70°F) in the summer. The annual rainfall in Canada varies from 508mm (20") in the arid regions to 2032mm (80") in the mountains. The southern temperate regions receive up to 1016mm (40") of rainfall evenly throughout the year. Snowfall is abundant in the north, which receives the least sunshine of fewer than 1500 hours annually. Mount Fidelity in Glacier National Park, in British Columbia, receives 14097mm (555") of snow annually. Snow remains on the ground for more than 250 days in many places. The Great Prairies witness ample annual sunshine of more than 2300 hours.

Canada's record high temperature is 45°C (113°F), set at Yellow Grass, Saskatchewan, on July 5, 1937. The record for the lowest temperature is -52.8°C (-63°F), set at Snag, Yukon, on February 3, 1947.

The best time to visit Canada

The best time to visit Canada, especially in the south and central provinces, is during late summer and early autumn between August and September.
A colorful landscape with wildflowers, trees, and abundant colorful maples are a highlight of the autumn, which has milder temperatures than the peak of the summer. Late spring to early summer from May to June is also a favorable period in the bottom half of the country. Peak summer in July sees high temperatures in the south but is comfortable in the northern arctic and subarctic regions. The Indian summer is a warm and peaceful period that sometimes lasts until October.

The worst time to visit Canada

The worst time to visit Canada is from December to February in the frigid winter.
The temperatures often drop to extremes that are much below -17.8°C (-0°F). Much of Canada sees average high temperatures below freezing in the cold season. April and May are troublesome with the melting of snow and large scale slush that creates walking and driving hazards. Frost and snowfall are rampant everywhere and affects everyday life. Blizzards frequently occur to create unfavorable conditions. It is imperative to have cold-weather suited clothes, as exposure of the naked skin to the cold is hazardous. The ski season and ski enthusiasts are the net gainers from the abundant snow accumulation.

Weather hazards

Canada is vulnerable to earthquakes, volcanoes, thunderstorms, floods, snowstorms, and extreme cold.
Mount Garibaldi and Mount Edziza, are few of the mountains with a volcanic past. Thunderstorms are common in the summer while melting snow creates flood-like situations in many places. Much of the country is under the blanket of extreme cold in the winter that sees the mercury column below an astounding -40°C (-40°F). Blizzards of great intensity scourge the landscape, with substantial deposits of snow.
Tahtsa Lake West in British Columbia recorded 1447.8mm (57") of snow in a single day on February 11, 1999. Fog reduces visibility to a great extent on the coast and is hazardous for ships. Freezing rain, frost, and snow are standard in much of Canada. The Canadian Arctic has very short summers, and permafrost covers the land.

Weather in January

January is the coldest and snowiest month of the year in Canada. Nowhere in the land do the night temperatures rise above freezing. Much of the arctic region has daily average high temperatures below freezing and little to no sunshine. Weather in January »

Weather in February

February is chilly and devoid of sunshine in much of Canada. The average temperatures in Calgary on the eastern Rocky Mountain slopes are in the cold -12.8°C (9°F) to -1.1°C (30°F) zone, while Regina in the Great Plains region is harsh in the -20°C (-4°F) to -8.9°C (16°F) range. Weather in February »

Weather in March

March is cold in Canada as the spring season arrives in the mild regions of the south and southwest. The west coast of British Columbia is wet, and the Queen Charlotte Islands receive heavy rainfall in the spring. The average temperatures in Vancouver are in the cold 2.8°C (37°F) to mild 10°C (50°F) range, and the seawaters are at 7.8°C (46°F). Weather in March »

Weather in April

April provides much-needed warmth to Canada, with partly cloudy skies, snowfall and freezing nights also on the menu. Toronto in the south has average temperatures in the 2.2°C (36°F) to 12.2°C (54°F) range. Lake Ontario is still cold with surface water temperatures at 2.8°C (37°F) and instances of lake-effect snow. The arctic, sub-arctic, and high mountains see ample snowfall. Weather in April »

Weather in May

May is warm in southern Canada and the Pacific coast. Halifax, on the east coast, registers average temperatures in the mild 6.1°C (43°F) to 13.9°C (57°F) range. The coastal regions are wet with 101.6mm (4") to 127mm (5") of rain, yet see daily sunshine of 6 hours. Weather in May »

Weather in June

June begins the beautiful summer in Canada, which shakes the land of lethargy. Much of the country is snow-free except for the high slopes of the mountains and patches of the tundra. Mosses and lichens grow in the short summer of the arctic region. Weather in June »

Weather in July

July is the hottest month of the year in Canada and the period of the brightest sunshine. Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Brooks, and Estevan in Alberta and Saskatchewan have more than 16 hours of daylight and are the sunniest places in the country. Toronto and Hamilton experience frequent thunderstorms in the summer. Weather in July »

Weather in August

August is a warm month in the summer of Canada, with bright sunshine and a rise in humidity. Early morning humidity is often the highest during the day. Seemingly clear skies suddenly become cloudy, with outbursts of rain. The average temperatures in Halifax on the east coast are in the warm range of 15°C (59°F) to 22.8°C (73°F), and the seawater at 17.2°C (63°F) is suitable for swimming. Weather in August »

Weather in September

September is the beginning of the beautiful autumn season in Canada that sees a gradual decline in temperatures. The skies are the cloudiest in the fall season, but it rains less than the summer. London in Ontario and Abbotsford in British Columbia are prime examples where the cloudy skies keep the sun away for many days in autumn. Weather in September »

Weather in October

October is colorful and cold in Canada as the autumn season attains its peak. Gorgeous colors adorn the landscape, ranging from crimson and purple to orange and yellow. The average temperatures in Inuvik in the northwest are in the frigid range of -12.2°C (10°F) to -5°C (23°F), with hardly 2 hours of daily sunshine. Weather in October »

Weather in November

November ends the autumn season in Canada to bring extreme cold and gloomy skies. Regina in the Great Plains region registers freezing temperatures in the -10°C (14°F) to 0°C (32°F) zone, and much of the country is in the grip of extreme cold. Weather in November »

Weather in December

December is dreary cold in Canada, with snow on the ground and the sun absent from the skies for extended periods. Edmonton, Halifax, and Saguenay receive between 381mm (15") to 508mm (20") of snow. The generally mild city of Victoria in British Columbia also registers more than 127mm (5") of snowfall. Weather in December »

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