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Warm but 'moody' spring expected across most of Canada: Weather Network forecast

Most Canadians can look forward to a warmer-than-normal spring, but they should also brace for the season’s "profound mood swings," according to The Weather Network's latest outlook.

The forecast released Wednesday predicts that the unusually mild winter seen across much of the country thanks to El Niño conditions will pave the way for even more pleasant weather in the coming weeks, but not without some interruptions.

"Overall, we will average out above normal for temperatures across the vast majority of the nation, from Vancouver through to Montreal," the network’s chief meteorologist Chris Scott said in an interview. "But keep in mind that spring is a time of transition, and it is a roller-coaster."

That could mean almost summer-like days quickly followed by cold snaps, stormy weather and even some potentially significant snowfall in parts of Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada, he said.

"(This winter) we've seen exceptional warmth, followed by some really bitter cold and then back to warm again. That's going to be the case for the first half of spring," Scott said. "That very moody feel to the atmosphere is what we will experience."

But starting in late April, the season is expected to usher in more settled and drier weather in most regions, including some "quintessential beautiful spring days where the temperature is 16 Celsius and it's sunny," he added.

Exceptions may include east-central Saskatchewan, central Manitoba and southwest Nova Scotia, where the forecast calls for above-normal precipitation.

In British Columbia, March will start on the cooler side before spring fully kicks in, and that comes with potential for snow – which would be good news for the province’s ski resorts after a disappointing winter season, Scott said. However, as temperatures rise and precipitation drops, there is worry those conditions could set the stage for early forest fires.

Below-normal precipitation expected after March may also be cause for concern in parts of Alberta, Ontario and Quebec hit hard by wildfires and the resulting poor air quality last year, he noted.

"This does not mean we're predicting a bad fire season. It just means that the way the weather looks, we are concerned about the start of the season," Scott said.

The good news, he said, is that a lack of significant snowpack across most of the country means the risk of widespread spring flooding is lower than it otherwise would be.

Warm and relatively dry spring conditions will also extend to Northern Canada, including Yukon and much of the Northwest Territories, according to the forecast.

"Now, the story does change in Atlantic Canada," Scott said, noting the region has experienced a harsher winter, including a fierce early February storm that dumped up to 150 centimetres of snow in parts of Nova Scotia.

Atlantic provinces are expected to see normal spring temperatures, with “a lot of ups and downs” and dramatic pattern changes, he said. That could mean significant rain or snow events, depending on the storm tracks.

"It's the one part of the country where we think winter may hang on a bit longer," Scott said.

And despite the overall sunny outlook for the season, he said we must remember that this is still Canada and anything is possible.

"I think the caution here is: don't put away the salt or the shovel or the boots or that winter wardrobe just yet."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2024.

Sonja Puzic, The Canadian Press