Canada's top ten weather stories of 2010

Mother Nature reminded the world who’s boss in 2010. From devastating killer earthquakes to menacing volcanoes and ever-frightening tsunamis, her wrath was widespread and powerful. When it came to the weather, relentless, unstoppable extremes wrecked havoc everywhere. Thousands of people lost their lives and millions more were left homeless and out of work. Among this year’s worst weather disasters were: a millennium-record heat wave and massive wildfire in Russia; the worst monsoonal flooding in Pakistan’s history; rain-induced landslides and the worst floods in decades in China; severe drought in sub-Saharan Africa and the Amazon basin; and the calving of the largest iceberg in nearly 50 years in Greenland. Unbelievably, these weather events all happened over a one-month period!

Canadians were left in awe of the power and force of Nature, but also quietly thankful for living in a country that – while not immune from Nature’s wrath – remains fairly unscathed and slightly off her radar. Complaints about frostbite, humidity, potholes, slush and brownouts seemed to pale in comparison to the deadly weather outside our borders. However, with or without climate change, weather extremes are becoming increasingly catastrophic for modern society as a whole.

While 2010 left Canadians largely spared for the most part, we still experienced a good dose of extreme weather. There were forest fires, “weather bombs”, big snows and expensive hailers. Property damage from weather cost Canadian insurers and governments millions of dollars and the economy billions. Vancouver played host to this year’s number one weather story – the good, the bad and the ugly at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. After a promising start to winter, things took a turn for the worse as mild, rainy weather leading up to the Opening Ceremonies and into the first three days of competition owned the podium. Fortunately, the weather changed and so did the mood, with Canadians basking in the success of the Games despite the horrendous early weather. Newfoundland and Labrador claimed the number two weather story after facing the frightening force of Hurricane Igor. In a province that is no stranger to storms, vigorous Igor was the most destructive in Newfoundland’s history. For Canadian farm producers, this years’ weather offered the wettest growing season ever and some of the best growing weather ever. Prairie farmers and ranchers struggled during a record wet spring and summer, but the weather turned out to be their best ally when fall warmth, dryness and abundant sunshine helped to salvage what would have been a disastrous harvest. Canada was spectacularly warm in 2010 – the 14th in a row. In 63 years of weather reporting, 2010 was the nation’s warmest ever with milder weather throughout the year. It featured the warmest winter and spring ever, the third warmest summer and the second warmest fall. Every region felt the warmth. One of the impacts of these warmer seasons is that ice that has covered the top of the planet for thousands and thousands of years continues to disappear. And not just in the Arctic. This year, it was practically ice-free in Atlantic Canada and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Globally, it was the third warmest year on record over the past 160 years according to the World Meteorological Organization. Further, 2001-2010 culminated in the highest temperature average for a 10-year period.

Other top Canadian weather stories for 2010 included: a welcomed warm summer in eastern Canada that left us sweaty and wet but not smoggy; frequent spring-summer severe weather in Saskatchewan that led to extreme flooding and record property losses; wild November gales around Manitoba and the Great Lakes; and a brief but record costly Calgary hailstorm. In addition, the year had a cancelled winter and a summer of summers. And the forest fire season was one of contrasts: generally quiet across Canada with the exception of British Columbia, where huge tracts of valuable timber burned in one of the most expensive years ever for fighting fires.

Among the runner-up stories this year was a marine “weather bomb” in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, London’s “Snowmagaddon”, tornadoes in Leamington and Midland, a month of spring snows on the Prairies, frequent summer (not spring) flooding in Manitoba, a welcomed warm summer in eastern Canada with sweat and wet but no smog, and huge gully washers in both the driest and wettest parts of Canada.

The following Top Canadian Weather Stories for 2010 are rated from one to ten based on factors that include the impact they had on Canada and Canadians, the extent of the area affected, economic effects and longevity as a top news story.

Top ten weather stories for 2010

  1. Spring Weather for the Olympic Winter Games
  2. Vigorous Igor
  3. From Dry to Drenched on the Prairies
  4. Canada’s a “Hottie”!
  5. Storm for the Ages: “Flurries”, Fury and Floods
  6. Saskatchewan’s Summer of Storms
  7. British Columbia Forest Fires…Costly and Smoky
  8. El Niño Cancels Winter
  9. Freak Canada-U.S. "Weather Bomb"
  10. Canada’s Most Expensive Hailstorm

Runner-up stories for 2010 (Chronological order)

Regional highlights

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