Canada has a mainly cold climate, with short, warm summers and long, frigid winters. The northern and central portions experience a subarctic climate (Köppen climate classification ET, Dfc). The extreme south is mostly humid continental (Köppen Dfa, Dfb), a small portion of which is a cold semi-arid desert (Köppen BSk). The southwestern Pacific coast has an oceanic climate (Köppen Cfb, Cfc). Canada lies in North America and shares a vast border with the United States in the south and Alaska in the northwest. The Pacific Ocean lies in the west, the Arctic in the north, and the Atlantic in the east. The high latitudes, lack of mountains to shield polar air masses, and cold currents are the main factors that influence the climate.
Three oceans together give Canada the longest coastline in the world spread over 151,000 miles. The Labrador current keeps the Atlantic coast colder than the Pacific coast. The landscape is diverse with mountains, plateaus, swamps, and consists of the largest freshwater lakes in the world. The Rocky Mountains block air masses from the west, while the Great Prairies to the east of the mountains have large populations due to warm conditions. Cold air from Siberia, the Siberian Express, brings extreme cold to the northwest. The winter temperatures are below freezing in much of Canada, except for British Columbia in the south. The western slopes of the Rocky Mountains receive up to 2032mm (80") of annual rainfall, and the climate is humid. Chinook winds at the foot of the mountains occasionally raise temperatures in the winter.
The Arctic regions up to Hudson Bay in the north have short summers of three months. Ice and permafrost dominate the Arctic region of Canada. The northwest region, including Yukon, sees warm summers with cool nights. The Great Plains in the Midwest occasionally experience temperatures above 37.8°C (100°F) in the summer. Precipitation is to the tune of 508mm (20") annually, but the plains see violent snowstorms in the winter. The Pacific coast has bright summers, with sea temperatures mild at best. The Great Lakes region in the south receives more than 1016mm (40") of rainfall annually and is prone to heavy snowfall. The east coast is mild and rainy in the summer, with periods of sunny weather. Winters are long, cold, and snowy in the eastern provinces. The mixing of cold and warm currents creates frequent fog near Newfoundland, particularly in the Grand Banks area.
Much of the upper half of Canada has only two seasons. Summers are short and warm, with cool nights. Winters are long and cold, with heavy snowfall and year-round snow cover. The Canadian Prairie is continental, with harsh winters that see temperatures below -40°C (-40°F). The regions in the temperate zone experience all four seasons. The average high temperatures range between 25°C (77°F) to 30°C (86°F) in the southern interior lands. Heat can exceed 40°C (104°F) in the hinterland during the hot season. The east and west coast has daily high temperatures above 21.1°C (70°F) in the summer. The annual rainfall in Canada varies from 508mm (20") in the arid regions to 2032mm (80") in the mountains. The southern temperate regions receive up to 1016mm (40") of rainfall evenly throughout the year. Snowfall is abundant in the north, which receives the least sunshine of fewer than 1500 hours annually. Mount Fidelity in Glacier National Park, in British Columbia, receives 14097mm (555") of snow annually. Snow remains on the ground for more than 250 days in many places. The Great Prairies witness ample annual sunshine of more than 2300 hours.
Canada's record high temperature is 45°C (113°F), set at Yellow Grass, Saskatchewan, on July 5, 1937. The record for the lowest temperature is -52.8°C (-63°F), set at Snag, Yukon, on February 3, 1947.
The best time to visit Canada
The best time to visit Canada, especially in the south and central provinces, is during late summer and early autumn between August and September. A colorful landscape with wildflowers, trees, and abundant colorful maples are a highlight of the autumn, which has milder temperatures than the peak of the summer. Late spring to early summer from May to June is also a favorable period in the bottom half of the country. Peak summer in July sees high temperatures in the south but is comfortable in the northern arctic and subarctic regions. The Indian summer is a warm and peaceful period that sometimes lasts until October.
The worst time to visit Canada
The worst time to visit Canada is from December to February in the frigid winter. The temperatures often drop to extremes that are much below -17.8°C (-0°F). Much of Canada sees average high temperatures below freezing in the cold season. April and May are troublesome with the melting of snow and large scale slush that creates walking and driving hazards. Frost and snowfall are rampant everywhere and affects everyday life. Blizzards frequently occur to create unfavorable conditions. It is imperative to have cold-weather suited clothes, as exposure of the naked skin to the cold is hazardous. The ski season and ski enthusiasts are the net gainers from the abundant snow accumulation.
Canada is vulnerable to earthquakes, volcanoes, thunderstorms, floods, snowstorms, and extreme cold. Mount Garibaldi and Mount Edziza, are few of the mountains with a volcanic past. Thunderstorms are common in the summer while melting snow creates flood-like situations in many places. Much of the country is under the blanket of extreme cold in the winter that sees the mercury column below an astounding -40°C (-40°F). Blizzards of great intensity scourge the landscape, with substantial deposits of snow. Tahtsa Lake West in British Columbia recorded 1447.8mm (57") of snow in a single day on February 11, 1999. Fog reduces visibility to a great extent on the coast and is hazardous for ships. Freezing rain, frost, and snow are standard in much of Canada. The Canadian Arctic has very short summers, and permafrost covers the land.
Weather in January
January is the coldest and snowiest month of the year in Canada. Nowhere in the land do the night temperatures rise above freezing. Much of the arctic region has daily average high temperatures below freezing and little to no sunshine. Churchill in Manitoba registers average temperatures in the frigid -30°C (-22°F) to -22.2°C (-8°F) range, with scanty rainfall. Alert in Nunavut is between -36.1°C (-33°F) to -28.9°C (-20°F), as the sun remains below the horizon for days together. The Northern Lights or the Aurora Borealis is a celestial spectacle during winter that occurs commonly in the Northern Territory. Rideau Canal in Ottawa, the capital, becomes a massive skating rink in the winter. The glacial cold mandates extreme winter clothing, including thermal underclothes, fleece, parka, gloves, and boots. Watch out for big deer such as moose and elk crossing the roads as these animals can easily cause considerable scale damage to an automobile. January sees few visitors in Canada, mainly winter sports enthusiasts who love the frozen world.
Weather in February
February is chilly and devoid of sunshine in much of Canada. The average temperatures in Calgary on the eastern Rocky Mountain slopes are in the cold -12.8°C (9°F) to -1.1°C (30°F) zone, while Regina in the Great Plains region is harsh in the -20°C (-4°F) to -8.9°C (16°F) range. The Pacific Coast is mild than the rest of the country and sees at least 4 hours of daily sunshine. Nunavut, Quebec, and Newfoundland provinces get more than 1524mm (60") of snow in February. Fog is standard on the eastern coast in the winter due to the mixing of cold and warm air masses. The Rocky Mountain slopes are famous amongst skiers and skaters. Hiking paths remain closed, but the slopes provide an unmatched thrill to adventure seekers. Kouchibouguac National Park in New Brunswick is one of the best sites for snowshoeing. The dog sledding season is in full swing in most provinces, including Yukon and Quebec. Niagara Falls in Ontario displays stunning natural ice formations. Pancakes with maple syrup are due for breakfast in February in Canada.
Weather in March
March is cold in Canada as the spring season arrives in the mild regions of the south and southwest. The west coast of British Columbia is wet, and the Queen Charlotte Islands receive heavy rainfall in the spring. The average temperatures in Vancouver are in the cold 2.8°C (37°F) to mild 10°C (50°F) range, and the seawaters are at 7.8°C (46°F). Montreal has freezing nights, with average temperatures in the -7.2°C (19°F) to 2.2°C (36°F) zone. The east coast has cloudy skies, with plenty of rain in Halifax. Rainwear is necessary for much of the country, and winter coats are mandatory in the frigid north. Harvest time is due in spring, and maple syrup is on the menu of every sweet lover. Snowfall occurs in many places and covers the ground. The sunshine is warm at best in early spring and lasts for a daily 4 hours in the south. Spring skiing is popular in Canada in March, with plenty of snow on the mountain slopes.
Weather in April
April provides much-needed warmth to Canada, with partly cloudy skies, snowfall and freezing nights also on the menu. Toronto in the south has average temperatures in the 2.2°C (36°F) to 12.2°C (54°F) range. Lake Ontario is still cold with surface water temperatures at 2.8°C (37°F) and instances of lake-effect snow. The arctic, sub-arctic, and high mountains see ample snowfall. Tourists prefer southern Canada and the Pacific coast as the sunshine improves going south. The east and west coast receives 76.2mm (3") to 127mm (5"), while it is more snow than rain in the north. The Canadian Tundra gradually adorns beautiful colors as the robe of winter slowly slips away. Victoria in British Columbia is one of the first places where spring flowers blossom. Tulips and cherry blossoms bring delight to the population. The alpine trails are full of snow, but the hiking season begins in the south. British Columbia and Nova Scotia are the best places for spring hiking in Canada in April.
Weather in May
May is warm in southern Canada and the Pacific coast. Halifax, on the east coast, registers average temperatures in the mild 6.1°C (43°F) to 13.9°C (57°F) range. The coastal regions are wet with 101.6mm (4") to 127mm (5") of rain, yet see daily sunshine of 6 hours. Cold sea temperatures of 5°C (41°F) are usually not conducive to swimming. The melting snow supplies fuel to roaring rivers and waterfalls. Late spring is a great time to visit many incredible and misty waterfalls. The Yukon River territory is a beautiful place that thaws by the late spring season. The spring equinox brings extended daylight hours, as much as 16 hours in Whitehorse in Yukon. It is a treat to watch the whales that arrive in droves to Canada's shoreline with the warming of the ocean waters. A jacket is a must in many places, even during the warm sunshine of the day. The Rocky Mountain slopes harbor snow for ski-lovers in the bright days of spring in May in Canada.
Weather in June
June begins the beautiful summer in Canada, which shakes the land of lethargy. Much of the country is snow-free except for the high slopes of the mountains and patches of the tundra. Mosses and lichens grow in the short summer of the arctic region. Animals are already out of hibernation to take advantage of the plentiful food, on the ground, and in water. The average temperatures are in the warm 7.8°C (46°F) to 20°C (68°F) range in Calgary in the Rocky Mountains. The bright sunshine of daily 9 hours is a blessing for tourists hiking and exploring the mountains. Summer is wet in many parts, and a rain jacket is useful. T-shirts are suitable for hot days such as those in the Great Plains, where temperatures exceed 37.8°C (100°F). Sweaters are handy for the cool summer evenings. The Labrador Current keeps the coasts of Newfoundland cool, especially near the St. John's area. June is the right time in Canada for an excursion in the northern seas, glaciers, and mountains of the Arctic.
Weather in July
July is the hottest month of the year in Canada and the period of the brightest sunshine. Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Brooks, and Estevan in Alberta and Saskatchewan have more than 16 hours of daylight and are the sunniest places in the country. Toronto and Hamilton experience frequent thunderstorms in the summer. Many cities register their highest rainfall of the year in July. Winnipeg and Regina register average temperatures in the 12.8°C (55°F) to 26.7°C (80.1°F) range but often record days over 37.8°C (100°F). Alpine meadows, forests, rivers, and mountains bring tourist hordes to Jasper National Park in Alberta. Hiking and biking trails abound the Canadian Rockies, but carry a bear spray as there are plenty of grizzlies in the area. Several lakes and beaches in the national parks excite water sport enthusiasts who love kayaking and canoeing. The extreme north even sees days of the midnight sun. For mild ocean temperatures, visit the Pacific coast. July unleashes the beauty of the wild nature of Canada.
Weather in August
August is a warm month in the summer of Canada, with bright sunshine and a rise in humidity. Early morning humidity is often the highest during the day. Seemingly clear skies suddenly become cloudy, with outbursts of rain. The average temperatures in Halifax on the east coast are in the warm range of 15°C (59°F) to 22.8°C (73°F), and the seawater at 17.2°C (63°F) is suitable for swimming. Toronto registers between 15.6°C (60.1°F) to 26.7°C (80.1°F), with average lake water temperatures at 18.9°C (66°F). Thermal hot springs are a unique attraction of Banff National Park in the Rockies. The alpine trails are clear in the summer, and the pristine lakes are open for canoeing and kayaking. The highest tides in the world occur in Hopewell Rocks near Moncton in New Brunswick. The August sun brings welcome warmth, and there is plenty of fresh air, green landscape, and freshwater lakes in the vast country. August evenings in Canada become cool by the second half of the month, which indicates the transition from the summer season.
Weather in September
September is the beginning of the beautiful autumn season in Canada that sees a gradual decline in temperatures. The skies are the cloudiest in the fall season, but it rains less than the summer. London in Ontario and Abbotsford in British Columbia are prime examples where the cloudy skies keep the sun away for many days in autumn. The average temperatures in Churchill in the subarctic region are in the 2.8°C (37°F) to 10°C (50°F) range. Waters of the Hudson Bay remain ice-free in September. Fall foliage is still in its infancy in early autumn. The enjoyable activities of the season include getting lost in corn mazes, exploring pumpkin patches, picking apples, and exploring the countryside. Blooming flowers and tasty wines add flavor to the warm afternoons and cool evenings. The hunting season is in full swing, with plenty of large and small animals on the list. September is a shoulder month for a visit to Canada, as the temperatures drop gradually with each passing day.
Weather in October
October is colorful and cold in Canada as the autumn season attains its peak. Gorgeous colors adorn the landscape, ranging from crimson and purple to orange and yellow. The average temperatures in Inuvik in the northwest are in the frigid range of -12.2°C (10°F) to -5°C (23°F), with hardly 2 hours of daily sunshine. The coastal cities are in better shape, with at least day temperatures above freezing. Rainfall is generally less than 50.8mm (2") in most regions except those where the precipitation is year-round. Fall afternoons are the best time to pick apples from the numerous orchards across the vast countryside. Apple cedars and vintage wines are an addition to the bountiful farm produce in the harvest season. Try ziplining through trees and combat aerial adventures in Gatineau Park in Chelsea in Quebec. Cranberry season is in full swing, and a unique fall experience is rarely complete without taking a plunge in a pool of cranberries. Snowfall is evident in the cold northern region, as ice covers the ground in October in Canada.
Weather in November
November ends the autumn season in Canada to bring extreme cold and gloomy skies. Regina in the Great Plains region registers freezing temperatures in the -10°C (14°F) to 0°C (32°F) zone, and much of the country is in the grip of extreme cold. Snowfall occurs in the majority of Canada, including the coasts. The alpine region is already frozen, while lakes and rivers serve as skating rinks in the lowlands. Hot water in Liard River Hot Springs Park, with temperatures above 37.8°C (100°F), is a blessing in the cold conditions. Fall evenings are cozy in log cabins in the warmth of a fireplace. Days are short, and the sunlight lasts hardly for 3 hours, even in the sunniest of areas. An extra layer of clothes is mandatory in most regions as the winter season knocks on the door. Adventure lovers who care little about cold seek thrill in the ridge runner coaster ride down the Blue Mountains in Ontario. The ski season begins in November in Canada as raging blizzards deposit large amounts of snow.
Weather in December
December is dreary cold in Canada, with snow on the ground and the sun absent from the skies for extended periods. Edmonton, Halifax, and Saguenay receive between 381mm (15") to 508mm (20") of snow. The generally mild city of Victoria in British Columbia also registers more than 127mm (5") of snowfall. Ice wine, made of frozen grapes, is a refreshing Canadian winter drink that is part of winter festivals such as those in Niagara, Nova Scotia, and Okanagan. Inuvik, in the Northwestern Territory, registers average temperatures in the -32.2°C (-26°F) to -22.8°C (-9°F) range. Nights are freezing, and the wind chill makes the conditions more deadly. The regions above the 60th parallel see harsh cold, which keeps most visitors out of this area. The Yukon province experiences low temperatures that drop below an astonishing -45.6°C (-50.1°F). Ice fishing in the frozen lakes is popular in the winter among the local populace. Trout, northern pikes, and many other types of fish serve dinner tables. Christmas is white in much of Canada, but December sees a cold shoulder from tourists.