We get more sunshine time starting today

The daylight hours are getting longer in Ottawa.

The capital will see an extra two seconds of daylight Wednesday compared to Tuesday, the winter solstice. Sunrise is at 7:40 a.m. and sunset is at 4:23 p.m.

By this time next month, sunrise will be about seven minutes earlier and sunset will be about 32 minutes later.

With the official arrival of winter, however, comes a bit of “folklore” from Environment Canada’s senior climatologist David Phillips.

“As the days lengthen, the cold strengthens,” he told Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Leslie Roberts on Tuesday.

Winter officially arrived at 10:59 a.m. Tuesday. The current forecast in Ottawa heading into Christmas is relatively normal, in terms of high and low temperatures, but Phillips notes that we’re still about a month away from the “dead of winter”, when temperatures are the coldest.

“Typically, that’s the point I would much rather celebrate,” he says. “Towards the end of January, we can say we’re at the bottom. This is, on average, the coldest moment and everything from that moment on gets a tad warmer, at least on average.”

Ottawa can expect a white Christmas. There was about 9 cm of snow on the ground Monday, according to Environment Canada, and while Wednesday’s forecast includes a slightly warmer than average high, Thursday, Friday and Saturday—Christmas Day—will be colder, with highs of about minus 7 C on average and some flurries in the forecast.

But Phillips notes that Ottawa has had an usual December.

“In Ottawa, you got the snow in December, but you’ve had temperatures of 16 degrees, so it’s been back and forth,” he said. “I’d say the vast majority of Canadians are going to have a white Christmas. But the snow you see now in Ottawa may not be the snow that you see during Winterlude in February.”

Ottawa’s high temperature on Dec. 16 was 15.5 C, and Dec. 11 saw a high of 11.2 C., well above seasonal norms. There have been ten days so far this December with highs above the freezing mark.


Looking back on his youth, Roberts asked Phillips about how much snow there used to be in winters past compared to now.

“The snowbanks seemed to be so high. Is it because I was short or are winters getting less, in terms of snow, now, than back in the seventies?”

Phillips said yes, winters are getting less snow on average.

“I think that is, really, for most people, the first kind of effects of climate change,” he said. “We are seeing fewer white Christmases. In Ottawa, for example, it used to be about an 85 per cent chance. It’s down now to a 73 per cent chance. In many places, we’re seeing the snow going down.”

In Canada, a white Christmas is defined as a Christmas Day with at least 2 cm of snow on the ground on Christmas morning.

Here is a look at the amount of snow on the ground on Dec. 25 at the Ottawa International Airport in the last 10 years: 

  • 2020: 0 cm
  • 2019: Trace (An unmeasurable or insignificant quantity)
  • 2018: 5 cm
  • 2017: 24 cm
  • 2016: 46 cm
  • 2015: 0 cm
  • 2014: 5 cm
  • 2013: 38 cm
  • 2012: 52 cm
  • 2011: 4 cm

For comparison, here are the snow-on-ground figures for Christmas Day in Ottawa in the 1970s. (Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier Int’l Airport)

  • 1970: 64 cm
  • 1971: 3 cm
  • 1972: 25 cm
  • 1973: 48 cm
  • 1974: 25 cm
  • 1975: Trace
  • 1976: 15 cm
  • 1977: 46 cm
  • 1978: 34 cm
  • 1979: 0 cm

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