Canada's top ten weather stories of 2003

Fires and avalanches in British Columbia, drought and locusts on the Prairies, blackouts in Ontario, flash floods in Quebec, hurricanes in the Maritimes and ice floods in Newfoundland - the stuff of biblical scriptures or Hollywood catastrophes? No, it's our nation's annual weather report.

While Canada has had years with more destructive and deadlier weather, rarely have we seen a year with such a variety of weather disasters month-after-month and from coast-to-coast.

The year 2003 will be remembered for the relentless, unstoppable weather events not only in Canada, but around the world. Thousands died from winter cold in Asia and tens of thousands from summer heat in Europe. In Canada, however, luck was on our side as fewer Canadians died from weather than usual. There were no deaths from tornadoes, and fewer and less intense twisters than normal coupled with 20% fewer lightning strikes probably helped keep the numbers down. On the downside, weather events were extreme, enduring and expensive. Insured property losses and other disaster costs made it one of the most expensive years ever for Canada. Two weather events alone - the wildfires in British Columbia and Hurricane Juan in the Maritimes - racked up costs of almost $1 billion.

Given what happened in 2003, more people than ever became convinced that global warming is real. Climatologists believe that although extreme weather is very much a part of normal climate, during changing climate extreme weather events become more frequent and intense. And while we can't say that the increased weather frequency and severity can be directly linked to a warmer world, we can say it is certainly consistent with our expectations of climate change.

Looking at Canada, the year's top weather story wasn't one single event. Instead, it was a year-long parade of weather disasters that befouled British Columbia. It began with destructive wind storms and deadly avalanches, followed by a summer of fire, an autumn of floods and an early winter with more record rains. The province's year of weather misery and misfortune earned it a place at the top of Canada's weather stories for 2003.

Out East, Atlantic Canada struggled with its own myriad of weather woes. February's ice storm in New Brunswick was reminiscent of the 1998 glaze storm in Eastern Canada, March brought Nova Scotia its costliest rain storm in history and Hurricane Juan's bull's eye hit on Halifax in September made international headlines. This year's other top weather stories included more drought on the Prairies, an old-fashioned winter in the East, and forests ablaze from Ontario to the Okanagan. Rounding out the year were ice floods in Newfoundland and spring snowstorms in Alberta.

Canada's Top Weather Stories for 2003 are rated from one to ten based on the degree to which Canada and Canadians were impacted, the extent of the area affected, economic effects and longevity as a top news story.

Top ten weather stories for 2003

  1. BC's Year of Disastrous Weather - fires, floods and freezes
  2. Hurricane Juan and Hurricane "Juannabes"
  3. A Long, Cold Winter Grips Eastern Canada
  4. Canada Ablaze from Ontario to the Okanagan
  5. Endless Drought in the Prairies
  6. Atlantic Canada's Most Expensive Rainstorm
  7. New Brunswick's Ice Storm of A Century
  8. A Record Year of Deadly Avalanches
  9. Alberta Spring Whitewashers
  10. Ice Age in Badger

Regional highlights


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