toronto winter weather

Toronto to get more winter weather ahead of the holidays than usual this year

A long, solid season for skiers and snowboarders is in the forecast for Ontario this year, according to Weather Network Meteorologist Dr. Doug Gillham — but don't get it twisted: The early arrival of wintry weather doesn't mean that winter harsh.

Quite the opposite, actually: Winter of 2021-2022 could prove to be one of the loveliest cold seasons we've seen around these parts in decades, depending on how traditional you are.

"Over the last 25 years, we've had a disproportionate number of mild Decembers compared to November and January," said Gillham to blogTO by phone when asked about his recently-published long-term fall forecast.

"This year, we have the possibility of more normal December weather... more than we've gotten accustomed to over the last 25 years."

Gillham wrote something to this effect when referencing Ontario's fall season, which begins today, in his widely-circulated temperature forecast for September, October and November last week.

While it was only one sentence in an otherwise positive outlook for a warmer-than-normal fall, the line sparked a flurry of hysterical articles and tweets proclaiming that winter would hit super early, making things "extremely snowy" and "brutally cold."

Such is not the case, says Gillham, noting that "we're not forecasting snow for Halloween" or anything like that.

"When we're doing a seasonal forecast, I shy away from giving anything other than the big picture," he told blogTO. "We look at models, but we do a lot of research on years in the past that had a similar global pattern to what we're seeing now."

Gillham explained that long range forecasting is not the same thing as predicting tomorrow's weather.

"The forecast that says if it's going to rain at your backyard barbecue this weekend is a totally different types of forecasting," he told blogTO, using the Toronto Blue Jays as an example.

Long-term outlooks are tantamount to forecasting if the Blue Jays could be in contention for the playoffs at the end of a season based on their roster and performance to date. A short-term forecast, on the other hand, is more like saying that the Blue Jays will win one specific game tonight.

What stood out for Gillam when looking at this year's historical weather trends was how many similar years saw "quite a pattern change during late fall and early winter."

"Fall is always up and down; we'll have some periods of warm weather with significant interruptions, but looking big picture... this year will have more winter weather than the majority of winters."

Yes, as mentioned in the Weather Network fall outlook, this could mean "an abundance of lake effect snow" in some regions, but not for a few months still.

We don't know when exactly fall will turn into winter — (Gillham says November is the wild card), only that scientists expect it to happen quickly and with gusto.

"Winter gets off to a faster start — it's more a front-end loaded winter," says Gillham. "We're not saying it's going to start in the fall."

Right now, his research suggests we will see a departure this year from the "false starts" to winter we've grown so used to experiencing in Toronto.

Instead of a mild pattern over the holidays, sandwiched between a brutally cold November and January, this season is looking more consistent, with a clear and timely pattern shift between fall and winter.

"How much of November is included in the later fall pattern is hard to say. Pattern changes can develop," says Gillham.

"But I can't ignore the consistent signal and research that says this December has the potential to deliver more consistent weather than we've seen over the past 25 years."

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