Nova Scotia Cottage Rental

Friday, 28 November 2014 12:43 pm

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Nova Scotia Climate Information

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 warmer.

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 provinces.

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 spring.

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 factory.

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.

 

 

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