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News Release

Ontario Weather Review

January 2012 

In January 2012, balmy temperatures continued to reign across the province.  Mean temperatures approached, but somewhat surprisingly did not surpass, the values of 2006 when most recent records were set in Ontario. This January, mean temperatures were above normal values by as much as 7.8 degrees Celsius, which was the case in Dryden!

No monthly records were broken in terms of precipitation. Most locations, in fact, received normal amounts. Some locations received significantly more rainfall, such as Elliot Lake and Windsor. Locations east and northeast of Lake Superior received significantly more snowfall than normal; however, locations such as Elliot Lake and Wiarton received significantly less. In terms of total precipitation, Earlton and Wiarton were drier than normal, while Geraldton, Kapuskasing, Moosonee, and Petawawa were significantly wetter than normal.

Severe Weather

There were a number of noteworthy weather events this past month, mostly during the middle part of January.

From January 17-21, many locations in the far north suffered under a frigid arctic air mass. Wind chill warnings were posted across much of the area, with values between -45 and -50 occurring due to the combination of biting temperatures and brisk winds.

On January 17-18, a low-pressure area from the American Midwest tracked through southern Ontario, bringing a wide variety of precipitation. Areas near the lower Great Lakes saw mostly rain, while those from east of Georgian Bay into the Ottawa Valley received snow. The snow changed to an extended period of freezing rain in the Ottawa area during the day on January 17 before changing back to snow late that day. Total snow accumulations in the areas that received the weather event all as snow were between 15 and 25 centimetres.

On January 19, a storm system moved through northeastern Ontario with a cold front that extended into southern Ontario. An area of poor visibility due to snow and blowing snow was tied to the cold front as it swept west to east, from Windsor to Ottawa. These conditions prompted the Ontario Storm Prediction Centre to issue a relatively rare snow squall warning related to the passage of the front. This was not the more traditional type of snow squall warning that is linked to lake effect snow coming inland from the Great Lakes. These hazardous winter conditions linked to the front didn’t last long, just a few hours in most places, but there were a large number of traffic collisions in its wake. The most serious was a chain reaction collision on highway 402 east of Sarnia, involving up to 30 vehicles and resulting in two fatalities. 

A large, well-organized storm system brought a mix of precipitation across much of the province from January 21-23. This storm came out of the American Midwest and eventually tracked up through northeastern Ontario and into Quebec. North of Lake Superior, it was a snow event, with total accumulations between 30 and 40 centimetres. The snow mixed with, or changed over to, freezing rain and freezing drizzle in northeastern Ontario, with some locations switching to rain as milder conditions pushed farther north. From Sault Ste. Marie to North Bay, the storm began as freezing rain and freezing drizzle, then changed to rain and then eventually to snow, as colder air invaded in the wake of the storm. 

With the Great Lakes continuing to have large areas of open water due to the relatively mild winter to date, a number of lake-effect snow events occurred during the month. However, on the days when the coldest air moved down over the Great Lakes, providing a good setup for lake-effect snow, the surface winds did not lock into one direction for long. This resulted in areas to the east of Lake Superior, Georgian Bay and Lake Huron receiving some 10 to 20 centimetres from these events, but no larger snowfalls, as the lake-effect bands shifted frequently.

Unusual mean temperature readings (in °C), ranked by variation from normal:
LocationMean TempNormalDifferenceWarmest since
Sioux Lookout-12.8-18.65.82006
Red Lake-14.0-19.65.62006
Thunder Bay-9.9-14.84.92006
Toronto Pearson-1.7-6.34.62006
Elliot Lake-7.3-11.84.52006
Pickle Lake-16.3-20.54.22007
Sault Ste. Marie-6.4-10.54.12006
North Bay-9.6-13.03.42008
Unusual rainfall readings (in mm), ranked by variation from normal:
LocationRainfallNormalDifferenceMost rain since
Elliot Lake52.216.136.12008
Unusual snowfall readings (in cm), ranked by variation from normal:
LocationSnowfallNormalDifferenceLeast snow since
Elliot Lake55.481.4-26.02010
LocationSnowfallNormalDifferenceMost snow since
Sault Ste. Marie108.181.726.42008
Unusual precipitation readings (in mm), ranked by variation from normal:
LocationPrecipitationNormalDifferenceDriest since
LocationPrecipitationNormalDifferenceWettest since

Media: For more information, please contact:

Jack Saunders
Communications Advisor/Media Relations
Environment Canada – Ontario

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