Climate Change and a Subtropical Canada?

Guest essay by F.J. Shepherd


Real climate change could be realized by having a region with a cold temperate climate transforming into a warm temperate climate. This article will explore what it would take to achieve such an event in Canada.

It might seem strange to have the words, “subtropical” and “Canada” in the same line, for as most Canadians and some others know, Canada is a very cold country. The annual mean temperature for Canada is 0.6°C, but you will not likely find that information in any public documents. I had to work that figure out with collected data.

Statistics Canada published a report in 2011 titled Temperature Trends in Canada that gave an ominous warning. Over the period from 1948 to 2009 for Canada: “The linear trend indicates an increase in mean temperature of 1.4°C over the 62 years in the record.”

Since global temperature rise is not quite 1° C in 135 years, Canada’s warming rate is almost three times as great.

The report`s findings, surely, was enough to make Canadians shiver in their boots for fear, was it not? Well, if Canadians were shivering in their boots, it was more than likely from the winter temperatures because Canada remains a very cold country.

The major climate zones in Canada are polar, subpolar, humid continental and oceanic. Almost 90% of Canadians live within the humid continental zone since most Canadians live in the southern part of the nation no more than 200 miles from the American border. This climate zone is virtually the same as that experienced within the US north eastern states and northern midwest regions, plus northern and eastern Europe, and large areas of Russia.

Following the Koppen/Trewartha climate classification system, the humid continental climate has the following characteristics:

(1) distinct 4 seasons with a warm to hot summers, and a cold winters

(2) precipitation is evenly distributed throughout the year

(3) mean temperature for the coldest month of the year is below freezing

(4) there should be from 4 to 7 months within the year that have a mean temperatures at or exceeding 10° C.

Within a warming trend, the natural progression would be for a humid continental region to climb to the humid subtropical climate classification. Fortunately, with the modifications done by Trewartha (1966) to the Koppen (1899) climate classification system, it has made the distinctions between climate classifications easier. The original Koppen climate classification scheme left the boundaries between some climates, somewhat vague.

I have lived in the Toronto Canada region of southern Ontario for the past 50 years. The Toronto area has one of the warmer humid continental climates in Canada with an annual mean temperature of 9.4° C. There is quite a range of annual mean temperatures possible within a humid continental climate zone. For instance, further west and north of Toronto on the Canadian prairies, almost 2,000 miles away lies the small Saskatchewan city of Melfort. Its annual mean temperature is only 1° C with its much colder winters and cooler summers. However, this cold little prairie town still resides within a humid continental climate zone even though its annual mean temperature is 8.4° C colder than that of Toronto.

Table 1: Toronto monthly mean temperatures, 1981-2010 data, in Celsius

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec Year
-3.7 -2.6 1.4 7.9 14.1 19.4 22.3 21.5 17.2 10.7 4.9 -0.5 9.4

Note in Table 1 for existing Toronto monthly mean temperatures that the coldest month, January, has a mean temperature below freezing, and there are six months wherein the mean monthly temperature is 10° C or greater. This is a typical humid continental climate configuration, added with the other features in that for Toronto, precipitation does fall relatively evenly throughout the year and we do have 4 very distinct seasons.

Now how do we convert Toronto to a humid subtropical climate? Pretty much everything is well in place except for temperature. In order to comply with the parameters to achieve a humid subtropical climate, we need to rid Toronto of monthly mean temperatures below freezing and increase from 6 months to 8 months wherein monthly mean temperatures is 10° C or more. That is easy. All we have to do is increase the monthly mean temperatures by a factor of 5.1°C and the mission is accomplished. Here is the result:

Table 2: Toronto monthly mean temperatures for a humid subtropical climate

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec Year
1.4 2.5 6.5 13.0 19.2 24.5 27.4 26.6 22.3 15.8 10.0 4.6 14.5

After I performed this procedure in a spreadsheet, I wanted to check against a city in North America that is relatively close in distance to Toronto and that actually does have a “legitimate” humid subtropical climate. This is the control variable in the experiment.

In order to do so I had to search through nearby US cities because no city exists in Canada with a humid subtropical climate. I emphasized the word “legitimate” because I found that some cities, like New York NY, Philadelphia PA, and Wilmington DE may claim to have a humid subtropical climate but they do not really have one; although they do appear to be very close. The nearest humid subtropical climate I found was in Baltimore MD. Here is Baltimore’s current temperature scheme:

Table 3: Baltimore monthly mean temperatures, 1981-2010 data, in Celsius

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec Year
4.2 7.3 8.0 13.7 16.9 24.5 27.1 26.1 22.3 15.6 10.2 4.1 15.2

Note that from April to December (9 months), the monthly mean temperatures for Baltimore and the projected Toronto temperatures are so very close. This satisfied me that if Toronto was to shift into a humid subtropical climate, the projections I made using the 5.1° C bump, is more or less what it would take. The spread of temperatures in my Toronto projections also seemed reasonable when compared with Baltimore’s current monthly temperatures.

An obvious question arises. Given the accelerated warming that Canada seems to be experiencing and which is almost triple the global warming rate, how long would it take for real climate change to come to Toronto Canada?

The answer is simply a matter of basic arithmetic. If the overall temperature rise for Canada as a whole continues on its present rate of 1.4° C every 60 years, it will take about 218 years for Toronto to achieve the needed overall temperature rise of 5.1° C. Now supposing that the rate of temperature rise in Canada triples what it has been doing for the last 60 years and rises at a rate of 4.2° C every 60 years. Toronto will still have a long time to wait for its humid subtropical climate – at least another 73 years.

However, there is another factor to consider. For if you peruse the report mentioned above from Statistics Canada, Temperature Trends in Canada, there are some charts that the report links to. You will see that Toronto resides in the defined Great Lakes and St. Lawrence region, and that the temperature in this region has not been rising at the overall Canada rate of 1.4° C, but rather closer to 0.6 to 0.7° C within 60 years. Of course that puts a whole new perspective on things since such a rate is half of the national rate. See Chart 1 in the Report. So we have to “adjust” those time-frames wherein 218 years becomes now 436 years, and 73 years becomes 146 years, waiting for Toronto’s humid subtropical climate to finally come.


The above was merely an exercise I went through to see what it would take for one of the warmer cities in Canada to change from a humid continental climate to a humid subtropical climate. It is feasible but it would take many, many years to occur and that is providing that the world keeps warming. I understand that some people think that such warming would be a tragic event, but for those of us who experience this cold temperate climate who live in Toronto, would love for it to change to a humid subtropical climate. For me the real tragedy is that such a change won`t happen soon enough, if it does happen at all.

116 thoughts on “Climate Change and a Subtropical Canada?

  1. Dang, you got my hopes up and then BAM !!! You shot them down…Thanks a lot from London, Ontario, Canada !!! LOL….brrrrrrrrrr

  2. Well done, Toronto! And for those of us living in Montreal, it can’t come soon enough either. I’d sure like to see my golf season extended a little. By the way, do you think 436 years would give you enough time to “adapt” to the new temperature regime, or would you need help from the climate adjusting crowd to slow thing down a little by taxing CO2 emissions more heavily?

  3. Just 3C would make the black spruce waste lands that span middle Canada, into the worlds bread basket.
    The microwave satellite idea from Fallen Angels:by Larry Niven, works for me.
    Let us microwave selected lakes to warm the regions.
    Global warming.. I’m all for it.
    Been doing everything my government says not to do,because it will cause this warming.
    CAGW is an intelligence test, for canadian politicians to get all emotionally worked up about preventing an improvement to our climate, shows what treacherous fools they really are.
    The old state of canada maps, show land use and Growing Days.
    Improving the number of growing days available in Canada,Russia,Northern Europe, Mongolia..means we can support billions more people(If we chose).
    Wetting ones bed over the potential warming of these regions, defies geological facts.
    The frozen stumps of a swamp cypress type forest on Axel Heiberg Island, thats at 78 degrees North,tell us a temperate Arctic is not even unusual.
    The magic gas of the Cults Cause improves plant growth in arid climates, more CO2 equals better crops farther north.

    • As a Larry Niven fan of old, thanks for the tip – I’ll be sure to follow up. To me the bright spot was always that if global warming wasn’t a scam, it would help Canadian agriculture. The problem is that if cooling is on the agenda then we will be losing some agricultural land. The CO2 would perhaps offset some cooling but we might reach a point where we will be thanking China and India for their raising the CO2 levels. Wouldn’t that be ironic?

    • I’d second that, except forty or fifty years ago, your actions were blamed for bringing us closer to a new Ice Age.

    • Of course the rehabilitation of the space travelers using yoga would be a fail now, as the University of Ottawa has declared the use of yoga to be an expropriation of culture and hence forbidden……

    • [John Robertson] The microwave satellite idea from Fallen Angels:by Larry Niven, works for me. Let us microwave selected lakes to warm the regions.

      Or go full frontal Niven — genetically engineer fields of reflective sunflowers to focus the sun’s rays onto heat towers rising from the lakes, which carry the heat into the water through circulating molten salt loops (or more impressively) strands of superconducting wire.
      The fanciful biology and engineering of the reflective Ringworld flora was explored extensively by Doug McElwain in this essay, Why Are Sunflowers on the Ringworld?. Behold the awesome imaginative power of the human race, and the delightful output of those with too much time on their hands.

  4. My friend Joe predicts another cold winter for the East this year – you Easterners voted for young Trudeau and his anti-global warming nonsense, so here’s what you get – three very cold winters in a row!
    When you are freezing this winter, you should give thanks to young Justin for his pledge to fight global warming – by increasing your energy costs and driving up Winter Mortality Rates, especially among the elderly and the poor.

    • And in the U.S. they voted for Obama, who is surely the only President who has ever suggested (even obliquely) that public policy can be crafted to influence the severity and frequency of dangerous hurricanes.
      Since he has been in office, he has risen to this challenge and not one Cat 3+ hurricane has been seen on N. American shores.
      Well, certainly, credit is needed where credit is due.
      The man is a genius who has exceeded all expectations regarding hurricane control.
      I have to say that this must be the most successful public policy program ever in human history.
      And there was I thinking that he was a total imbecile…

      • It worries me that I know several people who would agree with all but your last line, and sincerely mean it .

      • He’s done a similar job for tornados, numbers of forest fires and he has stopped sea level rise to boot.
        It’s a miracle!

        • Yay, hallelujah.
          Not to mention the Zwally Antartic Ice Gain conversion.
          Maximum Antarctic sea ice ever!!
          Polar Bears rampaging in ever greater numbers.
          The greening of the Sahel. etc etc.
          Can we do it? Yes we can!!!

      • He said the oceans would stop rising the day he took office. He lied…they are rising at the same rate as always.

        • Yeah, that was just due to the skeptics in congress. Obama was all for the end of Guantanamo and no more sea level rise. Audacity of hope, remember…
          Dream the impossible dream.
          Or is that a Honda ad?

    • Well they had to get rid of Harper who made Canada the #1 economy of the G8. He wasn’t warm cuddly enough for Canadians. The only attribute he had for the majority of Canadians that is fitting for a prime minister is he wasn’t bald. Being bald in North America is a killer for a would be head of state. Trudeau is warmer and cuddlier so we are all happy about that.

    • The northern regions of Canada are warming at a faster rate than the southern regions in Canada. And the article you linked to puts an interesting perspective on the matter implying as if when global temperatures go up, Canada’s will double the global rate – but in actual fact, the reason why global temperatures are rising is because northern countries like Canada are experiencing rising temperatures at high rates. I wonder if tropical regions are just staying the same and all the rise in temperatures is happening in the northern regions.

      • Way, WAY back in the discussion, this would be early 90s, I read that one could interpret most of the then warming to the fact that Siberia was getting less cold in the winter. Not sure of the provenance of the material, though.
        BTW, I believe it was on WUWT where I read of the number of northern Canadian temperature readings is now at an all time low, but I stand to be corrected.

      • Warming at a faster rate?
        Which reading(s) are they using?
        Eureka extrapolated to the north pole?
        When you infill you get what you want.
        Check steven goddard’s web site as to what was done with Greenland. No actual sites were used.

      • The rise in temperature in northern parts is mostly the winter temperature raising. With snow cover and a clear night it gets extremely cold. If the snow cover shrinks, the temperature rise gets lower.
        And be carefull about which organisation has compiled the temperature.

      • I really like the “take all the polar stations offline then homogenize the stations 1000km south up to get the reading you want” trick the best. Blatant and dishonest in one go.

      • Since thermal radiation tends to go as the T^4, it is obvious that it takes less heat to maintain a shift from one kelvin to two kelvin, than it takes to go from 300 kelvin to 301 kelvin.

      • Exactly. The tropics remain essentially unchanged which balances out the average to around 0.8C/Century.

    • Assuming there is some warming, Canada should receive bigger portion of it. There is theory which I agree, that Earth has some upper local limit for temperature (above ocean and close), somewhere around 26C. After that there is strong negative feedback, cooling is done by generating thunderstorms and increasing albedo by clouds. If this is correct, all warming should be present in temperate and polar zones. Tropical belt with temperatures already reaching 26C has no space to increase temperature. So warming will look like widening of tropical and subtropical belt.
      Upper limit of that is that arctic and antarctic will reach maximum 26C. Eventually whole Earth will become tropical paradise with 26C temperature…
      Warming gradient of warming from tropical to polar will always increase, because Earth is one big heat pipe system transferring received heat from net energy receiving tropical zones to net energy releasing polar zones where heat is radiated to space.

    • Sure is easy to “measure” warming in the places no one goes.
      Especially if the automatic sensing equipment at NavCan sites cuts off at -40C, no longer in calibration.
      Not to mention the airport effect.
      The hopelessly inaccurate weather stations Environment Canada switched to in the 1990’s have slowly been replaced, but Environment Canada’s Science, makes no mention or correction of these inconvenient details.
      The Bureaucrat who oversaw this destruction, capped it off by awarding $65 million to a NGO which studies “The effects of Global Warming”.
      When government changed and he was asked to explain this transaction; “I resign”.
      Now guess who is the well paid head of said NGO?
      Even worse the government stated”No crime has been committed”.
      Kleptocracy Rules.

  5. Looks like just another case of lying and fear-mongering with statistics. Besides, whatever actual warming there has been, there is no reason to think it will continue.

  6. If Canadians knew, of the direct benefits, of warming and enhanced CO2, they would declare war on anybody threatening to halt it. Viva la guerre. GK

  7. Then the Ontario government is using Canada’s best food growing areas for wind farms and ground mounted solar projects.

    • True. They are also building massive UHI generators (ie urban sprawl) over most of the best market farmland in Canada.
      UHI for Toronto is huge, as it is for most Canadian cities of any size. Using any temp data taken from within municipal boundaries is going to have a significant UHI component, which to my knowledge has never been accounted for in Canadian temp data (but then, I haven’t looked very hard for it either). Anybody who lives suburban to Toronto will tell you how hot the city is in the summer, compared to the environs. Been that way as long as I can remember, back to the early 60s and no doubt before.

  8. What I find really funny is that I live in the Toronto area, which BTW is much much warmer than Montreal where I grew up, but I spent a month in Baltimore this summer and talking to residents they were complaining of how cold the last winter was. I just told them, I understand cold really sucks, but you dont know cold. Their winter comes 3-5 weeks later, and spring arrives 3-5 weeks earlier, so while they complain its downright balmy for them.
    Canada being worried about Global warming is a joke, just showing they are good world citizens by throwing their body on a grenade(higher costs and lower standard of living, because we need lots of energy or we freeze).
    Northern Europe and most of Scandinavian does not get cold like Canada, they are more like Vancouver due to the Gulf stream, its easy and relatively cheap to heat 0C temps.

  9. However when a politician can say how environmentally conscious they are, raise taxes, reward friends, stuff Swiss bank accounts, and get kudos. Whats not to like?

  10. It is not that long ago that Canada was buried under more than a mile of ice.
    Canada would be one of the big winners IF only there was significant global warming. Unfortunately, it does not appear particularly likely that there will be significant Climate Change any time soon, so it is unlikely that Canada will enjoy the benefits that come with a warmer globe.
    A new ‘theory’ has been put forward (based on models) that volcanos actually cause global warming; the initial short term response is one of cooling, but thereafter the recovery rebound can lead to a climate shift. See:

  11. This is really about climate justice. Why should Phoenix have heat and low humidity and Toronto be left out in the cold???

    • “This is really about climate justice.”
      Absolutely, BallBounces. It is grossly unfair. So… how do we equalize Phoenix and Toronto’s climates?
      The obvious solution is to raise taxes and stop using fossil fuels ;o)

  12. I’m growing increasingly concerned about the potential for an ENSO shut down. Past ones have gone on 1K years. Why I’m worried … look at how the current El Nino and the past few have been real duds. Maybe it’s nothing, but there seems to be unfamiliar oscillation modes and unforeseen damping.

  13. Medicine Hat, Alberta has 125 years of records. It isn’t as cold as it was circa 1900 but the record. is essentially flat. An inadvertent cherry pick but it is hard to see any temperature variation or precipitTion beyond expected bounds wher you can find long term records.
    Had a great day last week in Banff skiing in two feet of Global Warming. Earliest I have had good POW in years.
    Maybe it just shows how bias affects your perspective.
    But it is definitely going to cool off in Alberta. The Rachel Notley NDP government plans to close all coal fired coal plants and erect giant fans all over the province to ensure that. ;-). That will als ensure a cooling economy and long lineups at the food bank.
    Looking forward to the next provincial election. It should be very interesting.

  14. Thank you WUWT for being truly international. I am Canadian and am pleased to see postings here that reflect conditions in so many countries. Anthony, consider yourself an honorary Canadian. (That and a couple of dollars will get you the largest coffee that Tim Horton’s offers…..)
    Ian M

  15. That promise was made 25 years ago by the KNMI, Mediterranean climate on our beach of the North Sea(Netherlands). Well it did not happen, there might be a few warmer days but that’s all.

  16. Somewhere floating in the ether is a book published in the early 1970s by a geologist from the University of Manitoba. I cannot remember the author nor the title, which is tragic. It is tragic because in this book discussing the geological history of the province of Manitoba, the author mentions that the permafrost in the northern part of the country may well be gone by the end of the century (1900-1999). Not because of global warming/climate change/emissions of any sort, rather because the country as a whole and the province specifically that was covered by glacial Lake Agassiz is simply coming out of the ice age still.
    Sadly most of Canada seemed to be stoned during the last election and now we’ll get some whopping carbon taxes to pay. I do hope someone documents the next twenty or so years to realize that we paid out billions of dollars a year for absolutely nothing.

  17. Montreal I go back a long way 50 and 60,s Punch Armstrong Pulford Keon They were the days Canadians Leafs only six teams

  18. One of my favorite tropes (from The Frantics): ‘…giving his entire ten million dollar fortune to the good people of Calgary…so they can move somewhere decent.”

    • Well, that was from the 80s, but now they have a liberal Muslim for a mayor, and a socialist premier, so we’ve been told that Calgary is actually Rilly, Rilly Kewl.

  19. Thirty or so years ago when the whole AGW insanity was just getting started, I was teaching an Intro college Earth Science class with a fair amount of weather and climate included. The “green” students (long hair, Birkenstocks, nubby natural fiber clothing, wool cap over the ears in hot weather) had their panties in a very tight bunch because I told them I thought climate change was absolute nonsense with its emphasis only on CO2. Taking the worst case scenario at that time, the warming predicted that Detroit, MI would become uninhabitable like that tropical cesspool of disease, body odor and sweat, Dayton, OH. Oh the horror, oh the humanity (to paraphrase the Hindenberg disaster).

  20. It might seem strange to have the words, “subtropical” and “Canada” in the same line,
    Yes, you can say that again!
    Unfortunately Canadians should not start anticipating a subtropical climate yet if Professor Dr. Friedrich Karl Ewert is correct.
    German Professor: NASA Has Fiddled Climate Data On ‘Unbelievable’ Scale
    A German professor has confirmed what skeptics from Britain to the US have long suspected: that NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies has largely invented “global warming” by tampering with the raw temperature data records.

    • And as I have mention here before, the local newspapers anomalous high daily temperatures have not been corrected according to Environment Canada’s website. I have caught the newspaper saying the high for a certain date (1940s and 50s) were not the same as the dates in the almanac. The Environment Canada dates show 2 anomalies in November to be recent(1995 and 2013) while the newspaper says that for the same date the high occurred in 1940s or 50s. I haven’t gone through the whole almanac day by day, but I assume many more have been changed by EC to show a warming trend.
      Here is the link for you locals in the Vancouver area. EC seems to be erasing the old data, and the newspaper hasn’t been informed yet.

  21. Interesting post. Thanks.
    I wonder if the energy content of planet earth as changed all the much over the eons. Certainly we think that at times area of the planet have been much warmer, and at times much colder. Canada and the northeastern US was under several kilometers of ice until just recently and further back we think there was eons with no glacification at all. Canada with no ice!
    What if the total energy content of the planet has not changed all that much over time? What if the distribution of heat has been changing but not the total amount? The oceans carry warmth here and there but we don’t know how changes in current might change the local temperatures around the globe. Do we? And the oceans do have tremendous capacity to retain or give up heat.
    Of course this idea is way off message so the IPCC would not look at it I guess.

    • markstoval – You have a very interesting thought there. From what I have been able to understand about earth’s past history for the last million years is that there were 8-9 major glaciation periods with warm and very short interglacial periods coming in between. In essence, during glaciation the northern hemisphere became much colder with two large ice sheets forming – one on North America and one on Eurasia. However, the tropics still remained the tropics – still very hot, although much drier in many parts. The areas that became colder were specific regions, whereas the rest of the planet carried on as usual.

    • “Certainly we think that at times area of the planet have been much warmer, and at times much colder”
      This is the kind of language the CAGW like to use. One has to consider that the earths temp is regulated, centered, close to the freezing point of Water 273K. There are many folks who mistakenly believe that a temp change of 5C to 10C is doubling of temp.
      Also the CAGW like to use the “anomaly” terminology which makes a 0.2C change per some selected period seem like an Earth shaking event.
      So “much warmer” becomes, say, a change from 283K to 285K which is like less than 1%. Over the history of the earth the “average temp” will have changed about 10% or so, quite stable for over billions of years.
      No offense intended here, but I do believe we must begin to educate folks who pay less attention to these finer distinctions by using more correct terminology ourselves.
      He who controls the language controls the debate.

  22. When Bama Lama Bama Loo went to Alaska, they didn’t dare show the audience for his speech real time. otherwise when he made that dumb crack about Alaska getting 8-12 degrees warmer the wild cheering would have spoiled the whole show 🙂 Since the principle strain in my ethnic makeup is Aleut (native Alaskan), I can with some authority, inform everyone while we can handle cold better than the palefaces, we don’t like being cold any better :):)

  23. I think that 436 years is too long for Canadians to wait for a decent climate. They should make their move south sooner than that to enjoy the rest of their lives. Or, just perhaps, it is all nonsense and they have no hope at all unless they move south anyway, without waiting.

  24. I’ve got some swamp land in Canada to sell to the highest bidder. Actually, the bidding starts at $1 million per acre since the UN, World Bank, IMF, OECD, IEA, Vatican Bank, and FEMA will be bidders.

  25. I have seen the annual march of temperature anomalies over different parts of Canada. Some sow very little change and some others show large change. The other important feature is large intra-annual variations in later part. Why these differences? Is it due to ecological changes?
    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

  26. Some of the first explorers that arrived in what is now Southern Alberta advised that the climate was too extreme for major settlement. It is snowy and cold today in Calgary. The weekend is forecast to be mild and pleasant. We’ll see what happens.

  27. ugh – It is -16C right now and the NDP are putting a $0.06 tax on gas to combat global warming. Just a very convenient reason to tax and spend

  28. When I studied geography at the University of Western Ontario in 1958, I was surprised to discover that Point Pelee, Ontario, Canada (north shore of Lake Erie) was the same latitude as northern California.
    To see the status of Point Pelee’s subtropical vegetation you can Google three words:
    “point pelee” subtropical
    There is nothing new about Canada having this little corner of the subtropics, especially nothing related to climate change since 1950.

  29. Aren’t Baltimore winter temperature data from mean maximum temperatures, and not mean daily temperatures, as all the others (both March-November and Toronto’s)?

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