In most parts of the world, Canada is associated with snow and an extremely cold weather. In fact, Canadian temperatures and climate vary greatly from one region to another and from one season to another. Generally speaking, Canada has five major climatic regions: East Coast, Great Lakes, Prairie, West Coast and Arctic/Sub-Arctic. This does not mean that every part of each region receives the same type of weather as every other part. Instead, it gives climatologists a rough guide to work with, when they study the weather patterns that affect each province and Canadian temperatures.
The Arctic/Sub-Arctic zone includes the northern territories (Yukon, Nunavut and Northwest Territories) and parts of the northern Prairies, Ontario, Quebec and Labrador. Summers tend to be short and hot, while winters are extremely cold, though the cold is tempered by a lack of moisture in the air. The precipitation is comparable to that of the Prairies. Nevertheless, the growing season is short and the soil is for the most part impractical for farming on a commercial basis.
The West Coast includes the west coast of British Columbia. British Columbia's Canadian temperatures and climate are similar to Oregon and Washington. This province has two distinct climate zones, the wet milder coastal region and the drier inland region. Both of them are typically the wettest and mildest in Canada, and they experience the fewest extremes in temperatures due to the westerlies (winds from the west) that blow in from the Pacific Ocean. For instance, Canadian climate normals in Victoria are usually above 0 C. The mountainous coastline forces these winds to move upward, resulting in a high level of precipitation.
The prairie region comprises Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and parts of British Columbia. The Prairies are among the richest grain-growing regions in the world. These vast regions have a typical continental climate: winters are cold, summers are hot and the rainfall is relatively sparse. The Prairies are typically the driest provinces in Canada due to the westerly winds that have exhausted most of their moisture climbing the Rockies. Cattle ranches, which do not require as much water as most types of farming, are common in the more arid parts of Alberta.
The Great Lakes include Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence region of Quebec. The precipitation is abundant and uniform throughout the year due to the westerlies that pick up moisture over the Prairies and drop it over the region. Summers are typically hot and winters cold, though not to the extremes that are found on the Prairies. However, a damp weather in the wintertime can make Canadian temperatures here feel even colder. In Canada, thunderstorms are most common in the southern region of Ontario; London, Ont., has a record of thirty four days of thunderstorms per year.
The East Coast zone comprises three Maritime Provinces, the parts of eastern Quebec and the island of Newfoundland. The precipitation is fairly uniform throughout the year. Most areas typically receive more rain than needed due to the westerly winds that bring moisture from western and central Canada. Summers are typically warm and winters are cold. Although most communities are located by or near the sea, the same westerlies that bring precipitation tend to counteract the modifying effect of the Atlantic Ocean on land temperatures. In addition, the cold Labrador Current from the north tends to give much of the East Coast is a far less mild climate than the West Coast. Fogs, sleet and ice storms are frequent in winter.