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BLOG: Philip Duncan in Canada

I’ve been in Canada just one week today but have already seen some incredible changes in the weather – including the city of Toronto going from Autumn to Winter in just 5 days.

My flight from Boston hooked around downtown Toronto before landing and I had a magnificent view of the CN tower (tallest building in the world) and the entire CBD. While I’ve been to Toronto a number of times before I’ve never seen it from this angle – fantastic. It was around 4pm when we landed – an hour later than it was supposed to as the plane was an hour late to pick us up in Boston. The pilot told us shortly before takeoff “We apologise for the delay but we had a slight mechanical issue”…hmm…was that a light bulb that didn’t work or a crack in the wing that needed to be welded?

From the plane the city looked “rusty” due to the leaves on the trees all being in Autumn colours. The next morning I was visiting my cousin’s house and along the highway leaves were piled up at least a metre high next to the pavement. Normally I’m used to seeing snow piled up like that here but not leaves. Unlike New Zealand most trees here lose their leaves so lawns and gardens literally disappear under the autumn colours. The council then sends trucks around with giant vacuum cleaners and sucks them up. Was quite a sight.

But two days after arriving a cold front went through and the wind picked up. Within 5 days of arriving in Canada almost ALL the leaves had been blown off the trees. So it went from looking like Autumn to looking like winter almost instantly. On top of that, there are hardly any leaves on the roads and lawns now.

I’m staying in Brampton, Toronto, and this area has a very large east Indian population. Beats my why Indians would want to move to arctic Canada but there are many of them living here. Of course diwali has been running – the festival of lights – and so many houses around here look stunning at night with Christmas lights all displaying. On top of that Christmas decorations are also going up as once Halloween has passed it’s officially time to get your Christmas decorations up. I used to wonder why they went up so early here in Canada but after seeing how quickly autumn physically gives way to winter it makes sense to add a bit of colour to the streets and homes.

That cold front that came through last week was definitely cold. Daytime highs went from around 7 or 8 to just 3 with a wind chill of -10. While driving on Friday we were hit by an ice pellet storm. Now ice pellets look similar to hail but are actually quite different. Ice pellets form when snow falls then melts at say 2000 metres above ground level. It forms into rain drops then before it hits the ground it moves through another pocket of freezing air and re-freezes as small ice pellets. Unlike a hail storm, which can be incredibly damaging and dangerous, ice pellets are usually smaller – they don’t make a thundering noise when they hit say a car roof. They do bounce though and can be incredibly dangerous for motorists.

The bigger danger is actually the raindrops not refreezing before hitting the ground. Instead the water droplets, which will be close to zero degrees, hit the ground and instantly freeze there, where surfaces such as roads and sidewalks are below zero. This is called freezing rain. I’ve only been in it once and it’s incredibly dangerous.

When I was in Toronto last time we had freezing rain on the way to the airport. So it was raining, and we had the windscreen wipers on, but on the car in front of us we could clearly see icicles forming around the wing mirrors, the number plate, the back bumper etc – while we were driving at 100km/h! Basically ice formed anywhere where water touched metal. Roads can turn into ice skating rinks in seconds under the right conditions.

This weekend a warm southerly arrived and temperatures shot back up to 17 degrees. I’m off to Vancouver on Tuesday on my way home to New Zealand. I’ll report from there in a couple of days. Vancouver has been taking all the weather headlines here in Canada with a weather bomb that saw the air pressure drop 35hPa in 24 hours. That’s a huge drop in air pressure. They’ve had torrential rain, damaging gales and heavy snow. A weatherman’s dream….unless the airport is closed.

Comments

Chris B on 9/11/2009 10:01am

That we report the weather here to you.

Today saw a drop in temperature across most of the country (by that I mean south of the Bombay Hills – yes, we do exist!) with a southerly that moved through (it hit Wellington around mid-afternoon) dropping temperatures that we would have preferred to keep from the weekend just passed.
Light showers in Wellington today with patches of rain forecast for Gisborne and a few showers for Auckland.

The good news is that it should pick up tomorrow around most places before another front moves up the South Island on Wednesday bring cold southerlies to most of the country.

How’d I do? Well, I wouldn’t expect you to know – you’re half a world away!

Hope the trip is going well…really amazing to read about the rain pellets and freezing rain too – didn’t know the weather could do that 🙂

Regards,

Chris B – Wellington

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