It was a surreal scene last weekend, which continued into the week across Atlantic Canada.
People shopped at stores wearing parkas. The faithful attended church in heavy coats and gloves. Tourists scattered like quail from campgrounds. Golfers fled for shelter when hail and snow made greens unplayable. Bonfires were built to avoid hypothermia, not to toast marshmallows. Fishermen assessed trap damage following gales and pounding waves.
Drivers scraped ice from car windshields. Motorists wondered if they had their winter tires taken off too early. Weekend barbecues were confined to garages as windchills were too severe for decks and balconies. Gardeners looked on in despair as their bulbs and flowers were coated in frost.
Bonfires were built to avoid hypothermia, not to toast marshmallows. Fishermen assessed trap damage following gales and pounding waves.
Was it still April, or perhaps the start of May?
No. It was early June, a month which is supposed to be busting out all over, with flowers blooming and birds singing.
And the cruel irony? It some places it happened after a day of record-high temperatures. The heat set off a growth spurt among trees and crops.
Miramichi, N.B. for example, went from breaking a 140-year-old record high on June 1 of 32.7 C, to a 91-year-old record low on June 3 of -0.6.
Then a series of heavy frosts struck, devastating crops, despite farmers’ frantic efforts. The worst hit areas were in Nova Scotia, especially the Annapolis Valley, where temperatures dropped to -4. Half the province’s wine grapes were destroyed.
P.E.I.’s potato crop largely escaped, while the impact on strawberry, blueberry and other crops is still being assessed.
Many farmers haven’t seen such a devastating period in more than 40 years. And it isn’t over. Wednesday was frosty and a frost warning was issued for last night across much of Newfoundland and Labrador. At least two significant snow events struck N.L. in recent weeks.
Other parts of Canada are enjoying seasonable temperatures, and our American neighbours enjoyed a record-breaking May.
What is happening here?
Alas, we've been stuck in a rut with low-pressure troughs entrenched from Hudson Bay towards Labrador. The key to the puzzle is a warmer ribbon of above-normal sea temperatures which has surfaced south of the Maritimes. This anomaly needs another ingredient — an ample supply of cold air, and we have that aplenty. When cooler air pushes south to the Atlantic, then robust, chilly, low-pressure systems are created.
Meteorologists tell us we’re entering a colder phase along the Eastern Seaboard, because of Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO).
Well, we’ve already seen enough of AMO.
The best advice for Atlantic Canadians this June-uary is don’t put the winter coats at the back of the closet just yet.
And keep a scraper handy.
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