Toronto Star

Mighty thaw defrosts Toronto

Warm enough for you? Mushy enough? This January melt looks like one for the record books

- CHRIS JAI CENTENO STAFF REPORTER

Think spring fever, but in January.

Very mild conditions will take hold today and tomorrow as the mercury climbs towards 13 C, pushing aside the Jan. 7 record of 6.5 C in 1998 and the Jan. 8 mark of 11.7 C from 1965.

The dramatic change from last week’s biting cold means we can put aside scarfs and parkas for a few days at least, although the rain clouds are now expected to hang around until Thursday to put a damper on things.

Toronto’s annual January thaw is interrupti­ng a much less friendly pattern of highs from -2 C to -9 C that are the norm for this time of year, said Environmen­t Canada climatolog­ist David Phillips.

“It should be freezing in Toronto right now, but what we are seeing is a lot of melting,” he said.

Toronto has had the benefit of a thaw every January since recordkeep­ing began in 1937, with the one exception of 1977.

What’s unusual this time is that it arrived sooner in January than usual — and that the warm weather we’re enjoying is being shared across the map from Alberta to the Maritimes, Phillips said.

The big melt of packed ice and snowbanks we’re experienci­ng does have a downside.

Toronto’s conservati­on authority says rivers and streams are on the rise due to accumulate­d snow in watersheds, which creates a risk of flooding.

Adults and children are being urged to show caution around icecovered ponds and water courses that may pose hidden dangers.

The freeze-melt cycle can also produce potholes in places where drivers aren’t expecting them.

Kelly O’Neil, of Blue Mountain Ski Resort at Collingwoo­d, says the mild temperatur­es are unlikely to disrupt the downhill runs.

“When it rains, it’s obviously not as nice to ski on the slopes. But we have the most sophistica­ted snowmaking operation in Canada and we really rely on that during a January thaw.”

How thankful should we be if it gets up to 13 C?

Over nearly three decades since 1980, 14 January thaws topped 10 C; from 1937 to 1980, only 12 did. Does this suggest a short winter? “There’s no beginning or end date to winter. Who knows?” said Phillips, who added a chilling thought — apparently the absolute coldest days of winter typically occur after the January thaw.

 ?? ANDREW WALLACE/TORONTO STAR ?? A wary stroller keeps her distance yesterday as a truck on Overlea Blvd. churns through a pool of trapped water large enough to have cottages.
ANDREW WALLACE/TORONTO STAR A wary stroller keeps her distance yesterday as a truck on Overlea Blvd. churns through a pool of trapped water large enough to have cottages.

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