Canada is a huge country, largely characterized by freezing winters: latitude and continentality, as well as the position of the mountain ranges, make it one of the coldest countries on Earth.
The population distribution (the largest cities are located along the southern part of the country) and its scarcity (although Canada is one of the world's largest countries, it has approximately 35 million inhabitants) show how hard the environmental conditions are in much of the country, mainly because of the cold climate.
Nevertheless, during the short summer, there may be some hot days, especially in the southern inland areas.

The only area where the average temperature exceeds the freezing point (32 degrees Fahrenheit or zero degrees Celsius) in winter is the coast of British Columbia (see Vancouver), where the climate is oceanic, cool and rainy.

The Rocky Mountains obstruct the flow of mild Pacific air masses, while there are no topographic barriers that could block cold air masses coming from the North Pole; therefore, apart from the west coast, the rest of the country experiences freezing winters.

The Atlantic coast (see Nova Scotia, Newfoundland) is much colder than the Pacific one, both because the prevailing winds come from the west (so, in the East coast, they come from inland) and because a cold sea current flows along the Atlantic coast, namely, the Labrador Current.

So, the temperature of the ocean near Halifax is 1 °C (34 °F) from January to April, while on the coast near Vancouver, it hits a low of 8 °C (46 °F) in February.

The sunniest area is that of the Great Prairies, east of the Rocky Mountains (Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan): in cities such as Calgary, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Regina, the sun shines more than 2,300 hours per year. However, southern British Columbia (see Vancouver) is also sunny in summer, and Arctic regions (see Alert) in late spring.

Arctic and subarctic climate

The vast Arctic and subarctic regions, from the northern islands to the Hudson Bay, experience only two seasons: a long winter, with night temperatures normally around -30/-35 °C (-31/-22 °F), and three summer months, during which the temperature is around or just above freezing. In Arctic areas, the temperature hovers around freezing or rises a few degrees above, while in subarctic areas, it rises above that value but remains on average below 10 °C (50 °F).


Here are the average temperatures of Alert, in the far north (in the Nunavut Province, at a latitude of 82 ° N, near Greenland), where only 155 millimeters (6 inches) of rain or snow fall per year.
Alert - Average temperatures
Min (°C)-36-37-36-28-15-31-2-12-23-30-34
Max (°C)-29-30-29-21-9263-6-16-23-26
Min (°F)-33-35-33-18527342810-9-22-29
Max (°F)-20-22-20-616364337213-9-15

At these subpolar latitudes, the sun in winter does not rise for a few months; the sunniest season is clearly the spring, while in summer, even though the sun never sets, the number of cloudy and rainy days increases. Here are the average sunshine hours per day.
Alert - Sunshine


In Canada, the subarctic climate zone extends down to a relatively low latitude: on the shores of the Hudson Bay, you can find tundra vegetation even around the 60th parallel, while in Europe, at the same latitude, there are big cities like Stockholm and Oslo.
Here are the average temperatures of Churchill, Manitoba, located at a latitude of 58° north, in the Hudson Bay.
Churchill - Average temperatures
Min (°C)-30-29-24-14-52783-4-16-26
Max (°C)-22-20-14-53121817102-9-18
Min (°F)-22-20-1172336454637253-15
Max (°F)-8-4723375464635036160

In Churchill, precipitation is not abundant, since it amounts to 455 mm (18 in) per year; the rainiest season is summer, while in winter, snowfalls are frequent but not abundant. Here is the average precipitation.
Churchill - Average precipitation

In Churchill, the sun is quite rarely seen in winter, while in July, the sunniest month, it is seen roughly half the time.
Churchill - Sunshine

The Hudson Bay is frozen solid from December to April, while in May, June and November, it can be more or less frozen depending on year. It is worth while to recall that sea water, being salty, freezes at about -2 °C (28.5 °F).
Churchill - Sea temperature
Temp (°C)-2-2-2-2-1038730-2
Temp (°F)282828283032374645373228


In the northwest, in the provinces of Yukon and Northwest Territories, the climate is strongly continental, with a long, cold winter and an intense summer, during which the daytime temperature can sometimes reach 30 °C (86 °F). Summer nights, however, remain cool. Of course, this applies to valleys and hilly areas: high mountains remain obviously cold even in summer.
In the northwest, the lowest temperatures of the entire North American continent have been recorded: on February 3, 1947, in Snag, Yukon, almost 600 meters (2,000 feet) above sea level, on the border with Alaska, the temperature dropped to -63 °C (-81.5 °F). Cold waves like this are due to the proximity to Siberia: when a high pressure system moves over the Pacific Ocean, a "train" of cold air (which in North America is called "Siberian Express") flows from eastern Siberia, and sometimes reaches the mid-west regions of the United States as well. However, in Snag, the monthly average temperature ranges from -27.5 °C (-17.5 °F) in January to 13.5 °C (56.5 °F) July, when the average maximum is 20 °C (68 °F).


Here are the average temperatures of Inuvik, located in the Northwest Territories, at a latitude of 68 ° N, not far from the coast of the Beaufort Sea. Here, the coldest record is -57 °C (-70.5 °F).
Inuvik - Average temperatures
Min (°C)-32-32-29-18-55960-12-25-30
Max (°C)-23-22-18-751720168-5-17-21
Min (°F)-26-26-200234148433210-13-22
Max (°F)-9-80194163686146231-6

Precipitation in this area is not abundant, and remains generally below 500 mm (20 in) per year. Here is the average precipitation in Inuvik, where only 250 mm (10 in) fall per year.
Inuvik - Average precipitation

Inuvik is located just north of the polar circle, where the sun does not rise for a month, from December 6th to January 5th. The sunniest month is June, when the sun never sets (so the percentage of the sunshine hours is not very high, about 52%).
Inuvik - Sunshine

Rocky Mountains

In the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia and Alberta, the climate varies according to altitude and slope exposure.

The western slopes have a very humid and relatively mild climate, with precipitation exceeding 2,000 millimeters (80 inches) per year. On the contrary, in inland areas and on the eastern slopes, precipitation decreases rapidly and drops below 500 mm (20 in) per year; in addition, the climate in this eastern area is continental, with very cold winters: in Calgary, at 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) above sea level, the average temperature in January is -7 °C (19.5 °F), while in Edmonton, more to the north and at 670 meters (2,200 feet), it's -10.5 °C (13.5 °F). Summers are mild, with cool nights, while days are pleasant, though there may some hot days, during which the temperature can rise to around 30 °C (86 °F).
During the cold months, in valleys and slopes facing east, the terrible Blizzard often blows from the north, but sometimes a totally different wind blows, the warm and dry Chinook, which is similar to the Föhn of the Alps but is even more intense, and can raise the temperature in a spectacular way (by tens of degrees Celsius), so much so that snow can quickly evaporate (or better, sublimate). The Chinook causes such spectacular changes in temperatures because of strong air compression (in fact, the wind descends from very high mountains), but also to the different origin of the air mass (which is much milder because it comes from the Pacific Ocean). While the Chinook blows at the foot of the mountains, the Blizzard typically blows in the vast prairies and plains of Canada (see below).


Here are the average temperatures in Calgary.
Calgary - Average temperatures
Min (°C)-13-11-8-2381094-1-8-13
Max (°C)-114111620232318123-1
Min (°F)9121828374650483930189
Max (°F)303439526168737364543730

In Calgary, precipitation amounts to 425 mm (16.5 in) per year, with a minimum in winter, when snowfalls are quite frequent but light, and a maximum in summer. Here is the average precipitation.
Calgary - Average precipitation

All in all, the sun in Calgary can be seen even in winter, while in summer, it is seen for almost two-thirds of the time.
Calgary - Sunshine

Canada landscape

Great plains

In the Midwest plains, from the southern part of the Northwest Territories (see Fort Smith) to the central and southern plains of Saskatchewan and Manitoba (see Winnipeg, Regina), the climate is strongly continental, with long, cold winters and short summers, when days are warm and nights remain cool, but during which there may also be some hot days.
The continentality is so strong that in the same place, the temperature can drop below -40 °C (-40 °F) in winter and reach as high as 40 °C (104 °F) in summer.
Precipitation, which has a maximum in summer, is not abundant: west of Winnipeg, it's lower than 500 mm (20 in) per year, and sometimes this region may experience periods of drought.
In winter, the blizzard brings terrifying snow storms.


In Regina, located at the 50th parallel, the average temperature ranges from -14.5 °C (6 °F) in January to 19 °C (66 °F) in July.
Regina - Average temperatures
Min (°C)-20-17-10-241012115-2-10-18
Max (°C)-9-60121823262619110-7
Min (°F)-411428395054524128140
Max (°F)162132546473797966523219

Here is the average precipitation in Regina.
Regina - Average precipitation

In Regina, the sun shines quite rarely in winter, while in July, it is seen roughly two-thirds of the time.
Regina - Sunshine

Pacific coast

On the Pacific coast, the climate is oceanic, very different from the rest of the country. Winters are relatively mild but rainy; usually, the temperature is above freezing, even though there can be a few days with snow and frosts almost every year. Summers are cool and fairly sunny, although sometimes it can rain.


Vancouver is the only large city in Canada which is not freezing in winter: the average temperature is 4 °C (39 °F) in January, and 18 °C (64 °F) in July. The climate is more similar to that of London (even though the summer in Vancouver is sunnier) than to that of cold countries.
Vancouver - Average temperatures
Min (°C)1236912141411731
Max (°C)78101317202222191496
Min (°F)343637434854575752453734
Max (°F)454650556368727266574843

The sea in Vancouver and along the coast of British Columbia is always cold, as you can see in the following table.
Vancouver - Sea temperature
Temp (°C)8881012131414131198
Temp (°F)464646505455575755524846

The south

In the Great Lakes region, in the plains of central-southern Ontario and Quebec (see Montréal, Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec City), the climate is still continental, but it is also humid, with precipitation around 1,000 mm (40 in) per year, well distributed throughout the year.
Winter is cold, often freezing, characterized by dry and sunny days alternating with periods of bad weather and snowfalls. Spring comes quite late and is very cool, while in summer, which is not long, rainy and cool days alternate with hot and sunny days, during which thunderstorms can break out in the afternoon.


In Montreal, which is located at the latitude of southern France, temperatures in winter are similar to those of Moscow, Russia, with an average in January of -10.5 °C (13 °F), while summers are warm, with an average temperature of 20.5 °C (69 °F) in July. Here are the average temperatures.
Montreal - Average temperatures
Min (°C)-15-13-70712151493-3-10
Max (°C)-6-32111924262521136-1
Min (°F)5919324554595748372714
Max (°F)212736526675797770554330

In Montreal, 1,000 mm (40 in) of rain or snow fall per year, and there is no dry season. Here is the average precipitation.
Montreal - Average precipitation


In Toronto, Ontario, located further south, winter is less cold: the average in January is -5.5 °C (22 °F), but the temperature drops below -20 °C (-4 °F) for a few days almost every year. Summer in Toronto is similar to that of Montreal, though slightly warmer: days are usually warm, and sometimes even hot, with some chance of thunderstorms, but there can be cool and rainy days as well. Here are the average temperatures.
Toronto - Average temperatures
Min (°C)-9-9-5271316151150-6
Max (°C)-2051219242726221481
Min (°F)161623364555615952413221
Max (°F)283241546675817972574634

Near Toronto, lake Ontario is very cold in winter, while in summer, it becomes almost acceptable for swimming, at least for those who do not suffer from the cold, especially in August, when it reaches 21 °C (70 °F).
Toronto - Lake temperature
Temp (°C)32237131921191495
Temp (°F)373636374555667066574841


During winter, in the Great Lakes region, cold air masses from the north-west pick up moisture when passing over the Great Lakes, and then collide with warmer air masses coming from the United States; therefore, in this area there are often waves of bad weather with heavy snowfalls.
In the southern part of Ontario, which is also the southernmost part of the country, during the summer, hot and muggy days can sometimes occur, when the area is reached by hot air masses from inland areas of the United States: in these cases, the temperature can rise up to 40 °C (104 °F).

Eastern coasts

The east coast of Canada (see New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador) has a humid climate, cold and snowy in winter, mild and rainy in summer.


Here are the average temperatures in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Halifax - Average temperatures
Min (°C)-8-8-4161114151262-4
Max (°C)004914202323191383
Min (°F)181825344352575954433625
Max (°F)323239485768737366554637

In Halifax, precipitation is abundant, since it amounts to 1,450 mm (57 in) per year; in fact, disturbances form in all seasons because of the continuous clash between different air masses. Being on the coast of the Atlantic ocean and exposed to the south, Halifax can receive southern currents even in mid-winter, which raise the temperature above freezing and bring rainfall. Here is the average precipitation.
Halifax - Average precipitation

In Halifax, the sun is not seen very often on average, however, in July and August, it shines for roughly half the time.
Halifax - Sunshine

On the south coast of Nova Scotia, the sea does not freeze in winter, except in the most closed and sheltered bays. In summer, the sea is very cool, if not cold.
Halifax - Sea temperature
Temp (°C)2002591417161395
Temp (°F)363232364148576361554841

The most eastern and northern coasts of Newfoundland (see St.John's) are cool or even cold even in midsummer because of the direct influence of the Labrador Current. Here, the climate is similar to that of the Sakhalin Island and the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk in the Russian Far East, and in summer, it's cool and foggy. The clash between the cold sea current and the warmer waters coming from the tropical latitudes of the Atlantic, generates frequent and dense fogs. For this reason, the area of the Grand Banks is the foggiest place on Earth.

Best Time

The best time to visit central and southern Canada, where the major cities are located, is from late summer to early autumn (i.e. from late August to late September): in this way, you can avoid the climate extremes (both the cold in winter and the possibly hot days in summer), you can find fewer mosquitoes (which, in summer, are a plague in much of the country), and you can enjoy a quiet and often sunny weather (the so-called Indian summer, which sometimes lasts until October).
In addition, in late September, you can admire the spectacular colors of the forests of maples and other species of trees.
The period from late spring to early summer, i.e. late May to late June, may also be fine.
The warmest period (July-August) is not to be totally avoided, although it can sometimes be hot, with some afternoon thunderstorms as well.

The worst period, along with midwinter (December to February), is perhaps that of the thaw, which varies depending on year and area, and occurs around April in central and southern Canada: the melting snow turns into mud, and travelling becomes difficult, at least outside the cities.

In the northern regions, summer is the only period when the temperature rises above the melting point, but travelling may be easier when all the land is frozen. At high latitudes, you can see the white nights in June, while beyond the Arctic Circle the sun never sets for a longer or shorter period, depending on latitude. At Easter, the vast northern territories are still frozen, but the days are already long enough. In winter, especially in December, the days are very short.

What to pack

In winter, it is necessary to bring clothing for extreme cold conditions, especially for the north, such as synthetic, thermal long underwear, a fleece, a parka, a wind jacket, and warm boots. T-shirts or light shirts are sufficient for overheated indoor environments. For the Vancouver area and the milder west coast, bring warm clothes, a coat, and a raincoat or umbrella.
In summer, in the major cities of the south, bring light clothing, T-shirts for hot days, a jacket and a sweater for the evening and for cooler days, and a raincoat or umbrella. For the Arctic region and high mountains, and for excursions to the northern seas and glaciers, warm clothes, a warm jacket, gloves, and a raincoat.

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