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Canada Mapped

Which Canadians get the coldest winters?

Reviewing the coldest temperatures ever recorded in Canada, and the weather forecast for January.
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Greg J. Smith, January 7, 2014 11:29:25 AM

We certainly haven’t had a dull winter so far this year in Canada: first Ontario was battered by ice storms, and now the country is facing a record cold wave. This week, it was widely reported that southern Manitoba was colder than Mars. Mars! In order to make some sense of this epic cold, we dug up some historical weather data on the coldest temperatures ever recorded in Canada, as well as average January temperatures across the country. Here is what we found:

The first thing that is clear is that the southernmost cities are not nearly as punished as the rest of the country. Cities like Toronto and Halifax have records lows of about -30° and Victoria (positively balmy in the winter) has record low of just -15.7°. As we head north, things get colder fast. Regina and Winnipeg have record lows of -50° and -47.8° (both recorded in the 1800s) and it was -56.7° in Prince Albert (AB) in 1893, and -60.6° in Fort Vermillion (AB) in 1911.

Related: Ice Storm 2013 in pictures

As we venture into the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut the record lows are not as low as you might think they’d be. Some examples: It was -51.2° in Yellowknife in 1947 and Shephard Bay’s (NU) low is -57.8°. Those are the same kind of numbers we see in Ontario and Quebec, but given the average temperatures we see in those regions (-25 to -30° January averages) it is colder more often, but the lowest lows are nearly identical to the south. The strangeness of ‘how far north you are doesn’t determine how cold your record low is’ is really driven home by Eureka, Nunavut’s 1979 record low of -55.3° despite having an average January temperature of -35°.

Given how cold it is today, you’re probably keen to hear the coldest temperature ever recorded in Canada. And the winner is… Snag, a town in the Yukon, with a record low of -63°, recorded on February 3rd, 1947—hopefully that drives home the point that our cold spell could be worse. Stay warm, Canada!

Image: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Spowart

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