Following a scorching summer, Canadians can expect the sweaty summer to drag its feet before conceding to the cool weather of autumn in the coming months. After a season that dealt numerous major cities a sweltering month of July–Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal each had their warmest month on record–calm relief will eventually be in store for the more densely populated areas of the country. But can the same be said for other areas of the country, where threats such as drought and wildfires are always lingering around the corner?
Cloudy and stormy weather signals good news
An increase in cloudy days and rainier-than-normal conditions may sound like a downer, but for western Canada this time of the year, they will bring relief.
“The main storm track is expected to be focused into southern British Columbia and the United States Pacific Northwest,” Anderson said. “This will lead to more cloudier and wetter days, which will also bring some drought relief.”
Anderson, a forecaster with AccuWeather for 31 years, has been running the company’s Canadian weather blog for more than a decade. He added that the wetter-than-usual autumn will benefit other areas of Canada as well, as a cloudier and rainier fall is also anticipated from Ontario through western Quebec.
In that region, where more than 11 million people collectively reside in three of the country’s largest cities (Toronto, Ontario and Ottawa), that cloud coverage may be a welcomed relief for many after a record-warm summer.
According to The Weather Network, each city had its warmest July on record in 2020. Recordings at Toronto Pearson Airport averaged 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit) for its monthly mean. Ottawa recorded the highest max temperature, reaching 36.9 C (98.4 F).
On the opposite coast, weaker La Niña conditions, a pattern characterized by cooler-than-normal ocean water in the equatorial Pacific, are expected to develop during the fall, Anderson said. The weak climate pattern will help enhance rainfall across British Columbia from October through November.
Tropical activity from the Atlantic
A historically busy Atlantic hurricane season isn’t expected to slow down its torrid pace anytime soon, and Anderson said the risk for systems impacting Canada this autumn is higher than usual.
Along with the factors over the open Atlantic that have fueled the record-breaking pace so far, warmer waters reaching farther north in the basin will also influence the kinds of impacts Canadians can expect.
According to Anderson, the highest risks from any tropical storm this fall would come in Nova Scotia, although he added that some increased rainfall may not be a bad thing due to the abnormally dry summer the region has experienced recently.
“The risk for a tropical storm impacting the region is slightly higher than normal,” he said. “On average, one hurricane impacts Atlantic Canada every three years.”
“The risk for a tropical storm is elevated this fall due to the expected high number of named storms in the Atlantic and the presence of abnormally warm water in the western North Atlantic,” he said.
AccuWeather experts are projecting a total of 20-24 named tropical systems this season, with nine to 11 of those becoming hurricanes. AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski said he expects a couple of those storms could threaten the United States’ northeastern states. If so, those impacts could spread to Canada as well.
Wildfires, leaf peeping and when to expect the first frost
Autumn is a widely beloved season for many because of the beauty that comes with the changing of leaf colors. According to Anderson, that beauty may arrive one week later than usual, on average across the country, but will be close to the normal time of year in the west.
On the flip side, autumn can also be a particularly scary time for many Canadian residents who deal with the threat of wildfires. In 2019, the Alberta wildfires consumed 883,414 hectares (2,182,960 acres) of land, the seventh-most in the country’s history.
Thus far in 2020, that has not be in the case, and Anderson expects it to stay that way.
“So far, the fire season across Canada has been well below average,” he said. “As of early August, there have been just over 2,500 fires. The 10-year average through early August is about 4,000 fires. Total acreage burned so far this season is only 10% of the 10-year average. Fire activity is expected to remain below normal through early fall for Canada as a whole.”
As for the harvest, Anderson said there is a low risk for an early freeze, which should be good news for farmers. However, he added that the exact timing of a first frost can be tricky to pinpoint this far out.
“The latest signals favor most regions having a low risk of an abnormally early-season freeze,” Anderson added. “This would likely extend the growing season.”
In the Canadian Rockies of eastern British Columbia, Anderson said there is the potential for an earlier-than-usual snowfall based on the projected pattern. Ski areas even in this region typically will not open up before mid-November at the earliest, he said.
Across the farming areas of the Canadian Prairies, the weather pattern should favor a fairly normal harvest, a welcome relief after last year’s “Harvest from hell,'” as farmer John Guelly put it in an interview with Reuters at the time. Heavy November snow and steady rain in the Prairies cut the canola farming season short, burying several million acres of farmland.
This year, however, Anderson said a similar disaster would be unlikely as the coldest shots of air and the bulk of storms will be too far to the northwest.