Climate change making white Christmases a thing of the past: UW prof
The chances of a white Christmas in southwestern Ontario are getting slimmer and slimmer.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Environment Canada was calling for rain to start falling that night and continue, more or less steadily, through Christmas Eve – easily erasing whatever traces of snow still remained on the ground.
While Christmas Day could bring some flurries, especially to areas near Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, a true white Christmas – at least 2 cm of snow on the ground by 7 a.m. – seems like an impossible dream at this stage.
Fog will also be a concern through Christmas Eve, with thunderstorms even possible late in the day – and temperatures potentially reaching the double digits.
As all of that comes to an end, high winds are expected across our coverage area. They’ll develop Wednesday night, and remain active into Christmas Day.
It’s a combination which has Bill Creighton worried.
The executive director of Chicopee Ski Club says much the 20 inches or so of snow currently lining Chicopee’s hills will be melted by the rain and winds.
“We’ve been making snow whenever we can, but of course we can’t make it at plus-five,” he said.
As of Tuesday, Creighton hoped Chicopee – which spent $400,000 on new snow-making equipment this year – would be ready to open by Sunday or Monday.
“It’s a moving target,” he said.
“We’ll get open as soon as we possibly can.”
At Benjamin Tree Farm in Waterloo, employee Greg Matthyssen said a relatively snow-free December hasn’t had a negative effect on business.
“Brown Christmas, green Christmas, white Christmas … it’s still Christmas,” he said.
Even on Tuesday, two days before Christmas, some people were visiting Benjamin to pick out trees for themselves.
“We were looking for a certain size. You have to look around to find one that works,” said Jim Harley.
But what may seem like an abnormal December may in fact be the new reality.
That’s what Jason Thistlethwaite thinks.
A professor at the University of Waterloo focused on climate change adaptation, Thistlethwaite says the “quintessential” white Christmas is already 15 per cent less likely to occur in southern Ontario than it was in the 1970s and 1980s – a trend he doesn’t expect to shift anytime soon.
“The temperature’s just going to be too high,” he said.
“If you do get a white Christmas, cherish it. A green Christmas is going to be the new normal.”
Specifically, Thistlethwaite points to a slow rise in the average local December temperature, to the point where it now sits only a degree or two below freezing.
“What we’re likely to see is about a two-to-four-degree increase by 2050. That’s going to raise the temperature above freezing and mean no more white Christmases,” he said.
“We really will be able to tell our children and grandchildren about the great days where we used to have white Christmases in Waterloo Region.”