This week’s warm, sunny weather was a taste of summer – but the appetizer, not the entrée.
Environment Canada meteorologist Jim Prime cautioned that we likely haven’t seen the last of cold weather and even snow. The white stuff would more likely be measured in flakes than inches, but late-winter storms are not unheard-of in Waterloo Region.
“We can experience snow all the way until the end of late spring, so I wouldn’t rule out snow,” Prime said.
This week’s temperatures were warmer than normal – the seasonal high for this time of year is usually around three degrees – but by no means record breaking. Record highs for mid-March are around 24 degrees.
Last year at this time, the mercury “went up to around 12 or 13 in and around the Elmira area, then right after that it went back down,” Prime said. “I think that’s what’s going to happen this time too.
“You have the warm air around the south and the cold air at the north and they’re kind of battling out the territory. That usually happens around southern Ontario, so we get days when it’s nice and warm and then we get another storm system that goes through and brings down that cold air again and reminds us that it’s not too far away from winter.”
This winter was both warmer and drier than normal, thanks to El Niño. Warmer sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean shifted the jet stream south and sent storm systems that would normally dump snow on southern Ontario to the Midwest and mid-Atlantic states.
That El Niño effect is starting to weaken, Prime said. While models are showing a warmer-than-normal summer, he cautioned that could mean just a degree or two warmer on average.
“It does look like it’s going to be warmer in the summer, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be hot.”
One group hoping for cooler weather for at least a few weeks is maple syrup producers. The higher temperatures aren’t a problem so much as the above-zero nights. Freezing temperatures at night produce carbon dioxide gas, which forces the sap to flow upward in the tree during the day.
Todd Leuty, agroforestry specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, said sap flows in the southern part of the province have been affected, and producers have gathered about 20 per cent of a normal syrup crop so far.
If the weather cools down as predicted early next week, producers will be able to continue gathering sap. The danger of continued warm weather, Leuty said, is that trees could start to bud out, bringing the season to an early end.
“We need a nice, slow transition from winter to summer.”