Winter Solstice Is Coming, And With It A High Chance Of A White Christmas

The winter solstice is nearly here, and with it comes a chance for a picture-perfect Christmas day in Toronto. 

At about 11:28 a.m. on Thursday morning the earth will begin its tilt back toward the Sun, marking the official start of winter in the northern hemisphere. 

It will also be the shortest day of the year in most places north of the equator, including the GTA. The sun will have risen by 7:28 a.m. and set by 4:43 p.m., with little more than eight hours of daylight, according to Environment Canada.

Meanwhile, the Christmas forecast in the city is coming into view, with temperatures expected to hover between -5 C and -10 C and a chance of snow on the 24th and 25th. 

Solstice revelry in Toronto

Thursday's astronomical phenomenon has been observed by various cultures and religious traditions throughout history, and still draws hordes of revellers to mystical places like Stone Henge in England each year. 

For those looking for a solstice experience a bit closer to home, the 28th annual Winter Solstice Parade at Kensington Market offers a chance to bask in the long night among fire breathers and other-worldly characters. 

If sunshine is more your style, the good news is that daylight hours start to become longer after Dec. 21. The bad news, however, is two-fold. First, there's little noticeable difference in daylight until about February. Secondly, the worst of winter is yet to come.

"As the days lengthen, the cold strengthens," says David Phillips, a senior climatologist at Environment Canada. "The dead of winter doesn't come until the end of January. We should be celebrating when that passes, not on the first day of winter."

'A perfect Christmas card kind of day'

Based on short-term forecasts, however, it will feel like the dead of winter in Toronto either way over Christmas and into the New Year.

Historically speaking, the city has about a 44 per cent chance of snow on any given Christmas, though that figure has fallen significantly in recent decades due to an increase in the size and intensity of the urban heat zone generated in the downtown core.

Based on more recent data, Toronto is now almost on par with Vancouver, which historically has just a 15 per cent chance of a white Christmas in any given year. 

The regions surrounding Toronto, however, still have an approximately 52 per cent chance of accumulated snow — which Phillips defines as at least two centimetres by 7 a.m. — on Christmas morning. 

"In fact, it could be a perfect Christmas card kind of day on the 25th, with snow on the ground and snow in the air," says Phillips, explaining that snow flurries throughout the day are possible. 

"Even those people who think snow is a four-letter word will begrudgingly accept snow for Christmas, right?"

Phillips goes as far to say that he predicts that most places in Canada, "90 per cent or more," will have snow come the 25th, especially in the West, with the exception of coastal cities like Victoria and Vancouver.

"It's almost a done deal out there. Death, taxes and a white Christmas," Phillips jokes.

Looking forward, Environment Canada is predicting a relatively cold January compared to the record setting warmth of last year, a trend that may continue into February.

"It will be a more classic kind of winter here in Ontario," Phillips says. 

Source :

Winter solstice is coming, and with it a high chance of a white Christmas
The Winter solstice - what it means
Winter is coming: A solstice infographic
Winter solstice heralds Christmas Day and start of winter
A day on-location in England with NBC Sports’ broadcast team
Winter is getting a later start this year
“Darkness Leaping Out of Light”: The Summer Solstice from a different angle
Weather blog: The winter solstice is upon us
Winter Solstice Without Snow