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Canada Weather Guide for Expats

Canada Weather Guide for Expats

Posted on 18 Dec, 2015

Though Canada is known for its fluid weather extremes from region to region, the four distinct seasons are the same. Winters tend to be long and cold; and surprisingly, expats should expect hot but short summers. Here is a guide to some of the more popular destinations. Our clients typically choose Vancouver, Calgary, or Toronto areas.

British Columbia- Weather in Canada's west coast of British Columbia is mild. In general, temperatures are warmer in the south than in the north, and rainfall is heaviest along the coast (think Seattle rain or Twilight) and lightest in the southern interior. BC is a large province, and therefore has a number of different climatic zones. Winters on the coast are temperate, and if snow falls, it doesn't stay long. You would see more of a light blanket of snow. Spring and fall can often be very warm and pleasant, especially in June and September. Summers are hottest in BC's interior, particularly in the south where temperatures frequently surpass 30°C. Nearer the coast, temperatures range from 22 to 28°C. British Colombia does not make the list for areas with the most sunshine. Vancouver ranks 76 out of 100 cities. Mild here means grey or foggy skies.

Alberta -Alberta is one of only two provinces that are landlocked and despite it being prone to cold, long winters, it ranks it has having the most comfortable weather in Canada. It also enjoys the most sunshine, receiving more than 2,300 hours of sun on average each year. Calgary area boasts the most sunshine in Canada. Sure, the temperature can dip below -30C for a few days, but then the Chinook (pronounced shih-nook) wind will come through and the temperature will rise well above zero. The big draw here is that it’s dry, and sunny. In the summer, it’s warmer and drier during the day than the UK ever is.

Ontario – Lets discuss Toronto. Toronto's location on the Great Lakes has a major influence on its climate. Winter in Toronto is bitterly cold by most standards, but not quite as cold as elsewhere in Canada. Daytime highs fall to -1°C in January, while overnight temperatures throughout the winter can average -3 to -6. Proper snow gear will be required. Spring brings the city back to life after its winter in the deep freeze, and this is an excellent season to enjoy Toronto's parks and sporting fixtures. The average overnight temperature creeps slowly above freezing by April, and by the end of May you can expect daytime temperatures of around 18°C. Spring can be wet and windy in Toronto, however, with rain on almost half of the days each month - bring some layered clothing and something waterproof. Although the average temperatures in June, July and August are a pleasant 25°C or so, the thermometer can creep above 40°C, and heat waves are quite common.

The harsh Canadian winters will be the biggest adjustment for expats moving to Canada. Your homes will have central heating and snow gear will be one of the first things you should buy. Snow plows will be common on the roads during the snowy months.

If you settle in Vancouver, you will have more rain than snow to deal with. Buy layers and waterproof gear.

If you choose Calgary, you will notice the skyway. This is a network of pedestrian walkways built 15 feet above the ground – links almost every building in the core downtown area to every other, effectively turning Calgary's city center into a massive shopping mall. The +15 walkways are heated, which is a true godsend in winter when, despite the freezing temperatures outside, pedestrians can go about their daily business without the need for a coat or boots.

If you choose Toronto, you will get some cold snaps, but those usually only last a day or two before the temperature climbs back up. The big problem with winter in Toronto is that because the temperature bounces up and down around the freezing mark you get a lot of freezing and melting cycles, which means icy sidewalks and gray, slushy puddles. Chicago is similar to Toronto, but Toronto would be a little less windy, which helps it feel not as cold.