To understand the climate in Nova Scotia, you have to keep in mind that
we are really quite far south. Halifax is roughly on the same latitude
as Milan in Italy. This means we get a hot sun.
If it were not for the cold waters of the Northumberland current
which flows from Greenland in the north between Labrador and
Newfoundland, we would have an even milder climate. As it is, this
current carries not only cold water to our coast, but in spring, it also
carries a lot of pack ice which keeps us cool until the middle of May.
this is not to say that we don't (double negative here..) get fluke
sunny warm days even throughout winter.
As I write this at the end of March, the crocuses are up everywhere,
and daffodils and tulips will follow in a few days. The trees have been
in bud for about 6 weeks but haven't started leafing out yet, and we
haven't seen any robins. For Canadians, the arrival of robins is 'the
signal' that Spring has arrived. To make up for our rather long winters
and later Springs, we have the most wonderful weather in the fall,
reasonably warm and very clear and sunny. I'm sure you've seen pictures
and heard about the famous Canadian autumn colors. Well, I believe that
Nova Scotia has the most beautiful colors in the country! And...like so
many parts of the world, our climate is changing and getting much
Daylight in Canada, and especially in Nova Scotia seems to be a lot
brighter than in Europe. A German friend who makes stained glass windows
for churches both here and in Germany has told me that he has to choose
his colors several shades darker when working for a Canadian project,
compared to what he would use in Germany, if he wants to achieve the
same effect. I guess I'm used to it, but I know of people who, when they
first arrived in Canada from Germany, had to wear sunglasses for a long
time, because the clear, bright sunlight would bring tears to their
eyes. The air is wonderfully clean here.
You will love the smell of the salt from the ocean!!! Most of the
time, the sky is blue with not a cloud in sight, and when there are
clouds, they present a fascinating spectacle, like a train of white
balls extending all the way to the horizon. I've not seen anything like
it in any other place I've lived.
While we have our share of coastal fog and rain it never seems to
last very long and we don't have extremely grey and gloomy days here
such as I've seen in central Germany for weeks at a time.
The weather in Nova Scotia is quite moderate. Not too hot in the
summer. Temperatures here along the Atlantic coast rarely go above 30
degrees on a hot summer day. Actually living on the coast means that we
have a very varied climate. Lots of 'microclimates' depending on where
exactly you are.
This is quite normal for coastal regions. For example, it might be
foggy by the water on a summer day. If you were to travel inland for a
few kilometers (3 or 4, perhaps) you would probably see the brightest
and loveliest sunshine. When you have a warm and sunny day on the coast,
the regions inland would have a hot day.
You've asked about the temperature of the ocean. Along Canadian
shores, both oceans (the Atlantic in the east and the Pacific in the
west) are rather cold. Here in the east, the Gulf Stream, which flows
north along the east coast of the US makes a right turn and heads
towards Europe just before it reaches Nova Scotia. Some say it's the
Northumberland Current flowing south which drives a wedge between the
coast and the warm Gulf Stream waters.
The ocean water on our beaches usually gets warm enough for swimming
sometime in August. To make up for that, there are literally hundreds of
clean, warm lakes everywhere you go, where one can swim much sooner.
There are nine lakes within the city limits of Dartmouth alone ! Did you
know that all bodies of water in Nova Scotia are public property and
accessible to everyone?
In the winter, the situation is reversed. You might get a cold day
inland (anything under 0 degrees is cold :-) while near the coast, it
would probably be a few degrees warmer as the ocean gives off the heat
it stored during the summer and acts like a warm water bottle. Just the
other day, Gail and I visited a friend in Amherst, near the New
Brunswick border. When we left Dartmouth, it was overcast and close to 5
degrees, no snow anywhere on the ground. A few kilometers on the other
side of Truro the weather turned colder and we drove through slush at
first which gradually turned into snow. By the time we reached Amherst,
actually a little town just this side of Amherst called Springhill,
there was snow everywhere, even on the roads.
Driving home the next morning, we went through the same transition:
snow at first and then bare ground and finally, as we drove into
Dartmouth, dry streets and temperatures a few degrees above freezing.
The coldest I have experienced in Nova Scotia is minus 20 degrees
Celsius at night. Such low temperatures could occur in February, but
they never last longer than a few days.
We don't worry about cold too much. Houses have very good heat,
either oil or gas or electric. This is true for all of Canada. Many
houses, mainly in rural areas, also have a backup system in the form of
a wood burning stove which will keep them warm in the event of a (rare)
power failure. Besides, wood heat is comfortable and smells nice. :-)
Other provinces have their own typical weather profile. At the risk
of being accused of generalization, I will give you a short description
of how I see the weather / climatic characteristics of the other
New Brunswick: Slightly more 'continental'. This means somewhat
colder winters and hotter summers. Lots of snow in the winter due to
it's relative proximity to the major weather flows which travel north
along the east coast of North America.
Southern Quebec: Remember that technically, Quebec extends very far
north into sub arctic and even arctic regions. The south, centered around
the region between Quebec City and Montreal, is probably more relevant
to most people thinking about that province. Summers get much warmer and
definitively humid. Temperatures of 35 degrees with 90% relative
humidity are not uncommon. Winters can be cold and provide lots of snow.
Southern Ontario: Like Quebec, Ontario extends a considerable
distance to the north, however, the south, between Ottawa, Toronto,
Windsor, is probably most relevant to newcomers. The winters tend to be
a little colder than in the Maritimes, but the summers are very hot.
Temperatures in the high 30s are quite common, with high humidity and
little relief at night. Air conditioning is not a luxury.
Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the eastern parts of Alberta: Summers are
hot and the winters do get very cold. Daytime temperatures of minus 35
Celsius are not uncommon in late December and early January.
British Columbia: The eastern part and the interior of that province
is quite dry. Temperatures are moderate and alpine. As one gets closer to
the Pacific coast, the climate becomes increasingly more humid, with
rainforests along the coast. The amount of rainfall on the western
shores can be quite high. In other words, there is lots of rain that can
lost for many days without much change. To compensate for that, the
coastal areas of southern BC do enjoy a very mild winter, and an early
After all this, I have to point out that this account is not
necessarily purely objective scientific fact. Much of what I've said is
based on selective impressions and experiences. Gail may well want to
argue the one point or another. In the end, weather is really a very
subjective thing that is experienced in different ways by different
people, not least because of the way they are exposed to it in the
course of their days. Someone working outdoors certainly has a different
perception than someone who spends most days indoors in an office or
There is a saying that I've heard in different places in this
country. It goes like this:
"If you don't like the weather in [add name of your region here], all
you have to do is wait five minutes!". Having spent time in southern
California, the land of perpetual sunshine and warmth, I've grown to
appreciate the four seasons, the green grass, the wind, the rain and
even the snow and ice of winter.
So much about the weather in Nova Scotia.