From: Marcy Nicholson, Reuters
Published February 2, 2006 12:00 AM

Normally a Big Chill, Canada Basks in Mild Winter

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Warm and winter are two unlikely companion words that Canadians are using to describe record-breaking temperatures this year.

Winnipeg, a Canadian city dubbed "Winterpeg" for its notoriously frigid winters, had its warmest January on record, Environment Canada said Wednesday.

Normally Canada's coldest large city each winter, Winnipeg enjoyed an average -7.4 Celsius (18.7 F) in January, the balmiest since the month's temperatures were first recorded in 1873. This broke the 1944 record of -10.6 C (12.9 F), well above the city's normal monthly mean of -17.8 C (-0.04 F), Environment Canada said.

Monthly temperature records are usually broken by fractions of degrees, said Dale Marciski, an Environment Canada meteorologist in Winnipeg.

"This time we're breaking it by over three degrees. That's showing that not only is it record-breaking but its record-breaking by a huge amount," Marciski said.

Communities in Canada's north, which often rely on temporary winter roads built on frozen lakes and rivers for bringing in supplies, have been isolated. Only an estimated 60 percent of Manitoba's winter roads have opened.

The unusually warm temperatures, caused by a flow of mild Pacific air from west, have been felt right across Canada.

Vancouver, which normally loves to brag to the rest of the country about its warm weather, averaged a balmy 6.3 C (43 F) in January, but it received a whopping 283.6 millimetres (11.2 inches) of rain, breaking its 1992 record.

The West Coast city had rain for 29 out of January's 31 days, breaking the December 1979 record for the most days of precipitation within one month, Environment Canada said.

Ottawa, normally the world's third-coldest capital city next to Astana in Kazakhstan and Ulan Bator in Mongolia, averaged a relatively mild -5.7 C (21.9 F) in January, up from its -10.8 C (12.6 F) average, nearly reaching its 2002 record of -4.9 C (8.8 F).

Mild temperatures have meant one of Ottawa's key winter attractions, the 8-kilometre (5-mile) outdoor skating rink on the city's Rideau Canal, has been open to skaters for only nine days this winter.

Environment Canada expects above normal conditions will continue throughout most of the country until at least April.

But just to prove to Canadians that Old Man Winter has not entirely forgotten them, the Atlantic Coast was being hammered by a winter storm on Wednesday that brought heavy snow and driving winds across the region.

Source: Reuters

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