Canada's top ten weather stories of 2009

Nationally, there was nothing exceptional about the temperature or precipitation in 2009. Crunch all the statistics and it averaged a half degree warmer and a meager two per cent drier than normal. But dig a little deeper – separate those statistics out – and there’s nothing “normal” about this year’s weather at all. The seasons were out of whack across the country, with new records or near records in every region. Sometimes, the weather was a marvel of contrasts, with some areas experiencing their wettest and driest periods in the same year, floods and droughts, or the warmest season in half a century along with the coldest in a century. If you ask most Canadians, they’ll tell you that winter went on far too long. Spring felt more like winter, what summer there was occurred in September and November was the October we never got.

For the second consecutive year, Canada’s top weather story was about disappointing summer weather. In 2008, it was the soaker of a summer with record wet conditions in Ontario and Quebec. This year it was the wettest summer ever in Atlantic Canada and uncomfortably cold in central Canada, where it rained hard and often. The forest fire season was one of remarkable contrasts: near-record quiet across Canada and record activity in British Columbia, where costs to fight the wildfires approached $400 million. And for the first time in nine years, multiple deaths from tornadoes occurred in Canada. The year also saw one of the wettest hours in Canadian history – over 100 mm in 90 minutes in Hamilton, Ont. Property damage from weather extremes cost Canadian insurers millions of dollars – one of the most expensive years ever. One of these events, an Alberta hailer, was possibly the second or third most expensive weather event in Canadian history. Also on the list of this year’s top Canadian weather events was major ice-jam flooding in Manitoba along the Red River and in New Brunswick along the Saint John River. In the North, the thinning and shrinking of the ice, albeit not as remarkable as in the two previous summers, continued to have a profound impact on the region’s people, plants and wildlife alike. Alberta owned several of the year’s top weather stories: powerful and deadly winds; devastating hailers in both rural and urban areas; and prolonged cold and drought. For Canadian farm producers, this year’s wacky weather was especially nerve-wracking. Their worst enemy – weather – turned out to be their best ally when a September heat wave and dryness in November saved what would have been a crop disaster. To be fair, the news wasn’t all bad. Our air was clearer than in most years, there were no summer blackouts and there were fewer West Nile Virus-carrying mosquitoes. Also a plus, this year’s hurricane season was quiet and gentle in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and largely spared Canada apart from some nuisance rains and major soakers. 

Unbelievable as it may seem, itwas another warm year for Canada – our 13th year in a row – although not as warm as it has been in recent years. Every region was warmer or near normal, especially the Eastern Arctic, which experienced its eighth-warmest January-to-November period on record. In the North, it was the warmest summer on record at nearly two degrees warmer than normal. On the other hand, the Prairies registered the second-coldest summer in 16 years. Globally, it was also another warm year according to the World Meteorological Organization. Surface temperatures averaged 0.44°C above the annual average of 1961-1990, making it the fifth warmest year on record. This decade (2000-2009) was warmer than the last (1990-1999), and was likely the warmest on record. Likewise in Canada, the decade just ending was the warmest by far looking back over the past six decades.

The following Top Canadian Weather Stories for 2009 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 2009

  1. Summer of Our Discontent - Too Much Heat in the Far West, Not Enough for All the Rest
  2. BC Burning Up
  3. Ontario Tornadoes…Deadly and Destructive
  4. Record Ice-Jam Flooding on the Red River
  5. Cold and Drought Combo Wreak Havoc with Prairie Farmers
  6. Less Arctic Sea Ice Retreat but No Recovery
  7. Multi-Million Dollar Hailer Pounds Urban and Rural Alberta
  8. Hamilton’s Record Costly Gully-Washer
  9. Winds Plough Through Alberta
  10. Enduring Prairie Cold Ends Dramatically

Runner-up stories for 2009 (chronological order)

Regional highlights

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