Experts say weather extremes are likely here to stay. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Weather extremes a new fact of life for Canadians: experts

Cherry blossoms are blooming early in Victoria, while central Canada had extreme cold warnings

As Ottawa limps across the finish line of its snowiest January on record, cherry blossoms are blooming at the legislature in coastal Victoria.

Millions of Canadians were hiding out this week under extreme cold warnings stretching across the map, even as some East Coast cities enjoyed moderate temperatures.

READ MORE: Cherry blossoms are blooming early in Victoria

According to experts, these co-existing extremes have been predicted for some time — and they’re likely here to stay.

“This is the kind of thing people have been predicting for years,” said Konrad Gajewski, a professor of geography and environment at the University of Ottawa.

“This kind of pattern of more alternation, more extremes, both in terms of warm and cold conditions is what we’re expecting for the future.”

Central Canada’s cold snap comes from the oscillating upper wind patterns of the jet stream, pushing the cold air down from the north with the polar vortex.

At the same time, the large “waves” in the wind patterns push some warm air north, explaining comparatively warm temperatures on the coasts.

READ MORE: Parts of Midwest colder than Antarctica during deep freeze

The exact role climate change plays in the pattern’s changes is an ongoing discussion in the scientific community, but a common belief says it’s the result of a warming Arctic.

“It’s thought that as the Arctic warms up because the ice is melting back, we’re going to have more of a situation where you have what we call ‘waviness’ in the polar vortex,” Gajewski said.

This “waviness” in the upper wind’s pattern could be carrying cold further and further south into south and central Canada, and pushing warm air further north along the coast.

Atmospheric physics professor Kent Moore at the University of Toronto says the striking weather patterns show how the world’s climate system is intimately coupled, and how changes in the coldest and warmest regions can be felt in central Canadian cities.

As an example, he pointed to the theory that the waves in upper wind patterns are moving slower, with larger amplitudes as a possible result of warming in the Arctic.

“The largest changes in the climate are occurring in the Arctic and some would say, ‘Who cares? I live in mid-latitudes, why should I care about that stuff?’” Moore said.

“The Earth is kind of a small place and so things that happen in the Arctic don’t stay in the Arctic.”

This interconnectedness of the world’s climate system also explains the impacts from El Nino systems on Canada, Moore said.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Vernon’s Vest finishes top-two at third straight golf event

Teen phenom drops playoff at MLT Odlum Brown Classic in Surrey

Lumby pedalling toward bike park

Village and partners hope to create bike park on village property in near future

UPDATED: Power has returned in parts of Greater Vernon

Crews restore power to more than 5,000 customers after noon-hour outage

Festival goers at the 27th annual Roots and Blues Festival

The Observer asked: Where are you from and what brought you to the festival?

Okanagan Cultural Connections live venue tour kicks off in Vernon

Two dozen promoters, national booking agents, and music reps to visit venues from Vernon to Oliver

QUIZ: How much do you remember about Woodstock?

Weekend music festival in Bethel, New York, was held 50 years ago

U16 B.C. fastpitch team named national champs

Girls went undefeated at national tournament in Calgary

Summerland’s downtown has gone through numerous changes

Main Street has been commercial hub of community for many years

Advocates ‘internationalize’ the fight to free Raif Badawi from Saudi prison

Raif Badawi was arrested on June 17, 2012, and was later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for his online criticism of Saudi clerics

RCMP, search crews hunt for 4-year-old boy missing near Mackenzie

George went missing early Saturday afternoon

Canadian entrepreneurs turning beer byproduct into bread, cookies and profits

Some breweries turn to entrepreneurs looking to turn spent grain into treats for people and their pets

Mistake-riddled offence leads to first loss for Okanagan Sun

The Sun lost to the Westshore Rebels 16-13

Most Read