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Major Climates in Canada's Different Regions

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  • 0:01 Climates of Canada
  • 0:31 Lowlands and Maritimes
  • 2:17 Prairies, Mountains,…
  • 4:20 Boreal and Arctic
  • 5:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, we explore the major climatic regions of Canada and the land, oceans and natural weather patterns that shape the average temperatures and precipitation amounts of this diverse landscape.

Climates of Canada

Canada is one of the largest countries in the world by land area, second only to Russia. But given that it is so far north - indeed, nearly the entire country is north of the United States - many Americans assume Canada is always cold and snowy. While that's true in a few parts of Canada, in reality, the country possesses several varied and diverse climates and ecosystems. Today, we're going to explore the unique climates Canadians face each year and the characteristics of each region.

Lowlands and Maritimes

The first climate we'll look at also happens to be the one that most Canadians live in: the Southeastern Lowlands. This region extends from Southern Ontario through Eastern Ontario and into Western and Southern Quebec. It includes Canada's largest city, Toronto, and other major urban centers like Montréal and the Canadian capital, Ottawa. This area has weather patterns very similar to its American neighbors in the Great Lakes region of the United States and Southern New England. After all, weather doesn't stop at international borders!

Summers in this part of Canada can bring humidity and warm temperatures, averaging 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Severe storms and tornadoes are possible, though far less likely than in the United States. Winters can be much colder, with winter temperatures averaging between 10 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit, along with ice and snow. Precipitation levels in this area are stable year round, and the region is conducive to agriculture common to the U.S.'s Midwestern states, like corn and soybeans.

To the east of this region are Canada's Maritime Provinces: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. These provinces exist in the Atlantic climate zone. This zone is slightly cooler in the summer than the Southeastern Lowlands, with mean average temperatures between 60 and 65 degrees.

Winter temperatures are milder as well, averaging between 25 and 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Atlantic Canada, however, gets far more precipitation and wind. Gale force winds and huge snowstorms often steam up the East coast of the United States and through Atlantic Canada, dumping feet of snow on the region. Newfoundland, being farther north and east than the two continental provinces experiences colder and shorter summers but similar winters.

Prairies, Mountains and West Coast

With the East coast of Canada covered, let's head west. The West coast climate zone of Canada covers a narrow strip of British Columbia less than 100 miles inland from the Pacific coast. Its climate is radically altered by the warm currents of the Pacific Ocean, much like the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. These currents keep the summers and winters milder than their inland neighbors. Temperatures rarely get higher than 70 degrees in the summer or lower than 40 degrees in the winter. The Pacific Ocean also causes this region to be the rainiest in Canada, dumping more than 75 inches of rainfall on the coast each year, leading to dense forest growth.

To the west of the Pacific Coast are the Rocky Mountains, which dominate the interior of British Columbia and the Yukon Territory. This climate zone, called the Cordillera, is the most complex in Canada. Temperatures fluctuate wildly depending on elevation, and the valleys of Southern British Columbia can record scorching summer temperatures of nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit while it's snowing atop mountains just a few miles away. The Northern Cordillera in the Yukon Territory records far colder temperatures, but the fluctuations can be just as great - from averages around 55 degrees in the summer that plunge to below 0 in the winter. As the Rocky Mountains dominate this region and hold up rain clouds, precipitation across the region is not uniform, with Western areas receiving more rain than those to the east.

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