Canada's Weather: The Climate that Shapes a Nation
Canada's Weather: The Climate that Shapes a Nation
Canada's Weather: The Climate that Shapes a Nation Canada's Weather: The Climate that Shapes a Nation Canada's Weather: The Climate that Shapes a Nation

* Book Type:

Publisher: Firefly Books

Author Statement: by Chris St. Clair
Audience: Trade
Specs: 197 color and archival black-and-white photographs, 46 color illustrations, tables, sidebars, index
Pages: 232
Trim Size: 8 1/2" X 10 1/2" X 13/16"
Language code 1: eng
Publication Date: 20121002
Copyright Year: 2009
Price: Select Below


Please Note: Only online orders placed from within Canada or the USA are accepted using the Add to Cart button

Canada's Weather: The Climate that Shapes a Nation

A comprehensive guide to weather phenomena in Canada.

A comprehensive guide to weather phenomena in Canada.

Canada's Weather explores the fascinating science and history of Canada's weather from coast to coast to coast.

Written by the Weather Network's popular weekend man, Chris St. Clair, it's organized in four seasonal sections and by Canada's distinct weather regions: the West Coast, the North, the Prairies, Ontario and Quebec, and the Atlantic region.

A total of 46 scientific illustrations complement St. Clair's careful and basic explanations of the universal principles of weather, and there are 197 photographs that show the power and beauty of Canada's weather reality.

With a unique perspective, St. Clair gives the full forecast on Canada's meteorological state of affairs, including:

  • The progression of weather from east to west
  • Extreme weather events
  • Large-scale and small-scale weather events
  • How Canadians have turned the weather to their advantage
  • How geography and topography affect weather
  • Tools of weather watching, measurement and forecasting
  • Climate change
  • Facts, trivia, proverbs and quotes about weather.

Canada's Weather is a fascinating reference to Canadian weather phenomena for home, office or school.


Chris St. Clair is a popular weather forecaster at the Weather Network on cable TV.



Our Obsession With the Weather

by David Phillips

Canadians have always been interested in and concerned about the weather. Weather has shaped our geography and history, our character and folklore. Weather goes to the heart of our identity as Canadians. It's our birthright, our passion, our national soap opera. Talking about the weather is one of our great national pastimes -- well ahead of politics and hockey. Canadians discuss the weather going up or down the elevator, across the backyard fence, at home, at work and on the Internet. Weather is a safe topic of conversation, a way to avoid difficult or controversial subjects. We talk eagerly to friends and strangers alike about black ice and blizzards and in turn listen intently to their stories of frozen pipes and frostbite. "How long did it take you to get home last night?" "How much did your heating bill cost last winter?" "How thick was the ice on your windshield this morning?"

Canadians love and hate the weather (sometimes at the same time!) -- and everyone wants to know what it's going to do tomorrow. We have a profound respect for and a passionate interest in meteorology, not because we talk about it more than any other subject but because it's so important to us -- always has been and always will be. Part of the appeal of weather is that it is real. No subject compares to weather for its pervasiveness. No other factor, except perhaps our health, looms larger in our daily lives and so directly affects our actions. Weather doesn't merely happen. It happens to our lives and our livelihoods. It touches us, and we touch it. We bless and curse it, chase it and run from it, pray for it and die in it. For city people, weather may be the last piece of nature available to them. On a daily basis, weather influences how we dress, what we eat, how we feel and behave, the cost of heating or cooling our homes and our vacation plans. We have an emotional attachment to weather. It annoys us, disappoints us, terrifies us, threatens us, entertains us and delights us. It presents an opportunity and a challenge, a pleasure and a disappointment. Weather is one of the few things that affect us all. And when something affects everyone, it makes for constant watching and chatting.

It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of weather to our economy. Weather is big business in Canada. About $140 billion of Canada's yearly economy is weather-sensitive. Weather tells us what we can and cannot do. Weather is particularly critical in Canada because of the country's geographical location, its dependence on natural resources and its reliance on export markets. Our polar latitude means that agriculture, forestry and fishing are practised near the northern economic limit. For such sectors, weather can mean the difference between prosperity and bankruptcy. It is often cited as the sole reason for a jump in unemployment, a decline in housing starts, a change in the inflation rate or a rise in the Consumer Price Index. It's almost as if the weather report has become the latest economic indicator. CEOs blame weather for a poor bottom line but are quick to credit shrewd management decisions for positive outcomes.

Canadians are among the most weather-conscious, weather-conversant and weather-sensitive people in the world. We are better educated and more informed about the weather than ever before. I can't think of a field of science other than meteorology that the average Canadian understands better and uses more effectively in a whole host of daily activities. Ninety-three percent of Canadians seek out the public weather forecast every day, 365 days a year, and act accordingly. I guess the other 7 percent sniff the air or wet their fingers. Another reason why weather is so big in Canada is because we're huge, with lots of weather -- maybe too much! Canada is a vast country that stretches across 5 1/2 time zones and covers more than a quarter of the western hemisphere. Vancouver is closer to Mexico City than to Halifax, and St. John's is nearer to Moscow than to Whitehorse. Canada's size and varied geography creates the potential for killer weather. We are a flashpoint between cold arctic air and warm oceanic air. When the two air masses collide, you get weather -- often dramatic. In a normal year, Canada sees between two to four tropical storms or their remains; 80 to 100 tornadoes (Canada is the second most tornado-prone country in the world); three million lightning strikes; countless blizzards; face-numbing wind chill; 40 degrees Celsius heat and -50 degree Celsius cold.

It is said that Canada flourishes because of its diversity. We are also the weather diversity capital of the world. We are much more than a cold, snowy forest. Our climate is a mosaic of most of the climates of the western hemisphere. We have the snow and cold of Siberia; the storms of the United States; the summer heat and humidity of the Caribbean; the aridity of the American southwest's desert; the moistness of Ireland; the winds and fog of Great Britain; and the temperateness of the Mediterranean. Of the world's major climates, only hot deserts and equatorial rainy types are absent.

Perhaps it is the variety of weather that we crave. In many parts of the world, weather is all reruns. It is so monotonous that it is rarely worth mentioning. How many different ways can you say sunny and fair? Most people don't find their weather very interesting. Who cares about the weather when you can set your watch to it? True, Americans from Montana to Maine are fascinated with weather -- but not every American, whereas Canadians' love-hate affair with weather is national in scope and year-round.

Canadians are spared from the world's worst weather -- in fact, Canada doesn't hold any world weather records. I continue to be amazed and thankful that so few Canadians die from the ravages of severe weather. It's not that we have a gentle climate. We get our share of weather misery. No part of the nation escapes the whims of the weather gods -- the stuff of Hollywood blockbusters. We endure flash floods, weather bombs, hailers, humongous snowstorms, burning infernos and disastrous droughts. It is important that we have a modern weather service and a responsive emergency program across the country, but Canadians are also experienced in weather matters and educated about weather safety. Further, we have a deep and abiding respect for the power of nature.

There are many reasons why Canadians obsess about the weather, but for me, it comes down mostly to its changeability. When Canadians talk about the weather, we speak about how it changes not from place to place, but from time to time. How this afternoon is different than this morning. How this day this year is different than the same date last year. A comment heard frequently in Newfoundland is, "If you don't like the weather out your front door, look out your back door." Or from the Prairies: "If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes -- or drive five miles."

Weather is home to us. Some of our best, deepest and most lasting memories include our experiences with the weather. We often can't remember the weather last month, but bring up the day one gets married or the day of a birth or death of a loved one, and we can recount the weather in surprising detail. Remember the weather the day Paul Henderson scored the winning goal against the Soviet Union in 1972 or the weather that fateful morning of September 11, 2001? Weather can unite us. It is the enemy or the impulse for a random act of kindness. Our weather is something that we all have in common -- even if each of us experiences it very differently. The same weather can be one person's misery and another's delight.

For most of the world, weather defines our character and our identity as Canadians. The image of Canada abroad is a land of perpetual winter -- a country ice-, snow- and fog-bound at the top of the world. You have heard them. The Great White North, eh! The Land of Snow and Ice. Kipling called us the "Lady of the Snows." Australians call us "frozen Yanks." Our weather gives us a chance to show the rest of the world how tough we are. Canadians like to believe they can survive anything -- we brag that there's nothing sissy about living in Canada. Canada is for those in whom the hardy pioneer spirit still burns -- people who scoff at blizzards and laugh at frostbite. We have four seasons in Canada, astronomically 91 days long, but climatically much different. There is an old saying that Canada has only two seasons: winter and July 15. But assuredly, we have four seasons, and wherever you go in Canada, it is easy to tell the difference among them.

It's been said that if our climate was different, we would be different. A good case could be made for saying that weather, as much as cultural differences, helps to explain why northerners are different than southerners, and why Prairie people are different than Maritimers. Weather is our most important defining characteristic. The British have the monarchy; the Americans have Hollywood; the French, romance. And Canadians? Well, we've got our weather.

David Phillips is the Senior Climatologist at Environment Canada.


Table of Contents

Acknowledgement and Dedication

Our Obsession With the Weather

1 A Land for All Seasons

2 How the Weather Works

3 The Seasons





4 Weather Watching

5 Canadian Weather Disasters

6 Climate Change


Photo Credits

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