As soon as the calendar hits Dec. 1, the phone calls to David Phillips’ office begin to snowball.
Across the country, in taverns and restaurants, people start laying down bets on whether there will be a white Christmas.
And they want the senior climatologist with Environment Canada to play oddsmaker.
However, since Christmas is still more than three weeks away and the detailed Environment Canada forecast looks out only seven days, Phillips is somewhat handicapped.
The long-range model for December, released Tuesday morning, has some positive signs. It suggests normal to below normal temperatures for the month and normal amounts of precipitation, which will outdo last year’s warmer December when we had a green Christmas.
With colder air moving in over the next two weeks, Phillips likes the chances of snow falling in Toronto before Christmas, but can’t say for sure it would last.
“It increases the odds a little, but I would only bet a loonie or two on a white Christmas,” he said.
Even that small encouragement would warm the hearts of many because, as Phillips says, “even people who hate snow love snow on Christmas Day.”
But when you consider the historical data, the odds are stacked against Toronto. If you thought there were more white Christmases in the 1960s and 1970s, you are right.
Toronto’s chances of having a white Christmas then were 63 per cent. With the onset of global warming, those odds have fallen to 55 per cent. And it drops further to 47 per cent if you live south of Highway 401.
A more recent snapshot over the last 20 years shows even less chance of a white Christmas. Those odds are 42 per cent north of the 401 and 37 per cent in the downtown area.
Environment Canada defines a white Christmas as having at least two centimetres of snow on the ground at 7 a.m. on Dec. 25, which would show more snow than grass.
The last white Christmas in Toronto was 2008 with 31 centimetres of snow on the ground. It was not only a white Christmas, but what Phillips terms “a perfect Christmas” with snow also in the air, giving the day that “Christmas card look.”
That year also marked the first time since 1955, when this type of record-keeping began, that the whole country had a white Christmas.
Some Canadian cities never have to go through this “crapshoot,” as Phillips calls it. Cities with a 100 per cent chance of having a white Christmas include Kenora, Yellowknife, Whitehorse and Goose Bay, Labrador.
Timmins, Winnipeg and Quebec City come close at a 98 per cent, with Ottawa at 82 per cent and Montreal at 76 per cent. London comes in at 71 per cent.
For those who live in Vancouver and Victoria, there’s barely a snowball’s chance in hell. Their odds are only 11 per cent.
- Curtis Rush Staff Reporter