Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday March 18, 2023
Ontario experienced its darkest winter in more than 80 years
If you felt Ontario had an abnormally dark and dreary winter this year, the science backs you up.
In fact, parts of the province saw the least amount of direct sunlight in more than eight decades.
Data by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) shows that between December 2022 and February 2023, some regions of Ontario recorded the lowest levels of solar energy since 1940.
Brian Brettschneider, an Alaska-based climatologist with the U.S. National Weather Service, analyzed the data published by the ECMWF and presented the findings in several maps.
“There’s kind of this bullseye over southern Ontario, where the solar energy was quite a bit lower than, comparatively speaking, anywhere else,” he said, in an interview with the Star.
Though Ontario had “unremarkable” levels of sunlight in December, it was in January when the province experienced “exceptionally low” amounts of solar energy, said Brettschneider. It was followed by a February season which also had lower-than-normal levels of sunlight.
Looking back at the weather in Toronto this season, the city experienced 14 consecutive days in late January without the sun appearing, according to David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada. Earlier in the season, between Dec. 30 and Jan. 13, there was only one day that was described as mainly clear.
“It’s hard to imagine a year that was so cloudy and overcast,” said Phillips. “We also had fog, drizzle, snow, freezing rain, blowing snow and snow showers — a whole litany of precipitation types.”
The wet and overcast conditions were due to persistent flows of moisture arriving from the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, said Brettschneider.
“You just get a lot of efficient cloud production when that happens,” he added.
Phillips also noted that southern Ontario had an unseasonably warm winter season, except for this March. But the low-pressure systems that bring these balmy conditions usually bring clouds and moisture as well, he said. (The Toronto Star)