Top ten weather stories for 2006: story four

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4. Goldilocks of Summers

Few Canadians dared complain about the summer of summers in 2006. Nationally, it was the second warmest on record. Temperatures averaged 1.4 degrees above normal, eclipsed only by the summer of 1998 when positive departures were 1.7 degrees. The entire country basked in the warmth, with the greatest departures more than 3 degrees above normal near the Northwest Territories-Nunavut boundary.

Following two truly miserable summers - a record cold in 2004 and record wet in 2005 - southern Manitoba continued the trend with record dryness in 2006. Until August, Winnipeg was on pace to set the dubious record for the driest summer ever. The June-July rainfall total of 39.5 mm eclipsed the 47.5 mm record set in 1886, while July itself was the driest ever with only 10.5 mm compared to 13.5 mm in 1875. Further, the city recorded its second driest April-through-July with about 40 per cent of its normal rainfall. Even though the skies finally opened up with rain in August, it wasn't enough to stop Winnipeggers from living through the third driest summer ever and the driest since 1929. In Portage la Prairie, a record was set for its driest ever June-to-August. But not everywhere in Manitoba was dry. In the north, Churchill experienced its third wettest July on record.

As for temperatures, the province topped 35°C for the first time in three years. Winnipeg recorded its second warmest average July maximum temperature - a torrid 29.8°C (4 degrees above normal). Happy Winnipegers said it was one of the best summers in a long time with warmer temperatures and no rain. To take full advantage of their first hot summer in years, residents in Manitoba flocked by the thousands to beaches and swimming pools. Water consumption in Winnipeg was up 17 per cent over a nine-year average. For a while, the dryness suited farmers. They prayed for warm, dry weather given the misery of the two previous summers. Although their prayers were answered, it continued to be dry in June and July to the point of drought with once bumper crops beginning to shrivel.

For the majority of Edmontonians, summer 2006 proved to be one of the best ever. The city had 11 days of 30°+ temperatures and several near misses - a far cry from the last two summers with only one hot day each. The 35.1°C on July 22 was the fifth warmest temperature recorded in Edmonton; the last time it was that hot was 70 years ago.

Further west, a persistent ridge of high pressure over British Columbia kept the weather consistently warm and dry. Once again, Lillooet and Lytton battled it out for claim to the nation's hot spot. On July 21, Lytton was Sahara-hot when the temperature soared above 42°C, topping the 1994 record. The size of the province-wide heat wave was very impressive. On July 21-22, 63 daily temperature records were broken across the province from Vancouver Island to Peace River country. Further, abundant sunshine was a tourist's dream come true. Hotels experienced record occupancy as travellers swarmed the Sunshine Coast.

In southern Ontario, the summer of 2004 was too cold and wet, and the next year was "the hottest, sweatiest, dirtiest summer on record". For 2006, most Ontarians agreed that it was just right - the Goldilocks of summers. In Toronto, for example, the city baked in above 30°C temperatures on 20 days; less than half the hot days in 2005 but 17 more than in 2004.

Adding to the weather delight, rainfall was "just right", keeping gardeners happy and lawns green. The perception that it had been a good summer was reinforced because of the 30 Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays from the May long weekend to August 31, only 8 days were wet. Rains seemed to come when water was needed. Not only were amounts adequate but it was a consistent rain unlike last year's alternating bouts of dryness and soggy weather. Consequently, the corn was never higher, tomatoes never plumper, and farmers never happier. Ideal weather enabled farmers to harvest record yields of winter wheat. Corn and soybeans, Ontario's other major crops, also fared better with above-average yields expected. Not only did the summer bring reliable rains, it often fell at night delighting city folk.

Further, anyone with asthma or respiratory problems breathed easier. Ontario's Ministry of Environment issued only six smog advisories totalling 17 days, which is a vast improvement from last year's 15 advisories totalling 53 days. On several occasions, the summer proved you can have heat and humidity without smog. Comfortable Ontarians responded by using 70 per cent less energy than 2005. That not only saved them money, but it also spared the GTA from frustrating brownouts and blackouts. Fossil-fuel generation declined by 17 per cent on lower demand but hydro revenues fell by 9 per cent over the previous year.

Whereas record high rainfall was the big talk across the Maritimes, Newfoundland-Labrador boasted the warmest June and July ever recorded. Atlantic Canada as a whole experienced its third warmest summer in nearly 60 years, with only the summers in 1967 and 1999 fractionally warmer.


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