Warmer-than-usual spring to follow week of 'weather wars' as Ontarians fear 'hottest, driest summer on record'

Ontario experienced a have-it-all weather week, leaving experts believe the rare thunder and hailstorms in February may result in a warm spring and summer

Environment Canada and AccuWeather experts are warning of a warmer-than-usual spring for Ontario as the province recovers from a mixed weather week of thunder, lightning and hail storms.

Environment Canada senior climatologist David Phillips told Yahoo Canada temperatures are expected to be higher for the next few months, especially for Ontario and Quebec, which are exiting not a very "snowy winter."

"We are forecasting this spring — March, April, May, the meteorological spring — to be warmer than normal really across the country," Phillips said.

AccuWeather meteorologist Bob Larson told Yahoo Canada the soft winter temperatures can be attributed to El Niño, which will continue to impact the weather across the rest of the seasons through 2024.

"We are coming off of an unusually mild winter," Larson shared. "Certainly February and this week exaggerating that point, and more than anything else, this is an El Niño winter.

"Heading into spring and summer, El Niño is going to fade into La Niña, and I can tell you, we are expecting spring temperatures to trend to warmer than the average readings, and we are also expecting the trend of drier weather to continue across the province, as of the matter, the greater region, across the Great Lakes through Ontario and into the eastern U.S."

Both experts said it's too soon to comment on which way the mercury would sway come summer since the season is "ways away" but agreed the conditions are likely to grow warmer.

A have-it-all weather week forecast for southern Ontario

Tuesday in Ontario marked the day for exhilarating lightning visuals, rain and hail storms, while noting spring-like warmth with a fast and steady temperature drop accompanied by the threat of a flash freeze forecast for the remaining week.

Weather scientists and climatologists are attributing the strange natural events earlier this week to a conflict between warm and cold air masses, resulting in dramatic drops and rises in temperatures noted across various parts of Ontario.

"It was almost like weather wars broke out across the province," Phillips said.

"I looked at the map and I saw, 'Oh my gosh, there's some places that are getting record-breaking warm temperatures for February, others are getting snow squalls, there is severe cold, there is rain, there are strong winds, there's flash freezes, blowing snow.' ... It was almost a weather misery in terms of hazards."

Larson said while thunderstorms in February aren't common, it's not "unheard of" and there's likely to be at least one around this month every year.

"It's not like it's never happened before," he added. "We're entering March and at least some thunder and lightning tend to become more common the deeper we get into March, April and May."

The considerable warmth in the air, with temperatures rising to mid-teens on Tuesday, were put to an end later in the night by a hard freeze that saw the mercury plummeting significantly over a short period of time in some parts of Ontario.

Ontarians fear 'hottest, driest summer on record'

The dramatic fluctuations earlier this week led Ontarians to wonder how high the mercury might rise this summer.

Toronto, which has an average frequency of thunderstorms from May to September with highest likelihood during warm and humid conditions, witnessed dramatic visuals in the sky as a double-lightning struck the CN Tower accompanied by rain in the Greater Toronto Area Tuesday afternoon.

Many wondered what could the early arrival of thunderstorms mean for the upcoming seasons and how will the rest of the year pan out weather wise.

"If we're getting late April/early May weather in late Feb... better trim all vegetation away from your houses: We're in for the hottest, driest summer on record. Until next summer," reposted a retired teacher on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Meanwhile, other parts of Ontario like Barrie, London, Hanover, Ingersoll and Mount Forest played host to hail and thunderstorms, making driving a challenging task and demanding locals to stay vigilant when out on the road.

"Good collection of pea-sized hail outside my work window," shared a Hanover local.

Climate change to blame for 'weather wars,' rising temperatures?

In the opinion of weather experts, not "everything" can be pinned to climate change and "sometimes we can read too much into it."

While in the case of this week's contrasting weather, they agree the dramatic changes happened in the backdrop of climate change and it continues to influence the changing temperatures around the planet, it was nothing more than a contributing factor.

"To flat out say climate change caused the weird weather this week would not be fully accurate," Larson shared. "It may be contributed to it, but I can't say it caused it. It may have enhanced it per say."

Phillips noted it's really that there was a warm front and a cold front colliding.

"When the warm air from the south arrived, the first job for it to do is melt the ice and snow up north," he noted. "However, in the absence of which there was nothing to take the energy away from the air mass. That is what allowed you to see the record temperatures across the province."