Climate Control

This week I’ve been lucky enough to have not one but two days off work as a result of ‘adverse weather conditions’ (just about the only positive thing about working for a UK University at the moment – the ConDems can take our funding but they can’t take our snow days).  Every time the snow starts to fall within inches of our coastlines the buses and trains stop running, the schools start closing, and every man and his mother has something to say about how terrible it is that we’re so unprepared for winter weather.  This usually involves comparing the UK to somewhere like, for example, Canada.

Whilst it’s true that other countries seem to fare much better during ice and snow, Vancouver was also taken unawares at the end of November when an unexpected drop in temperature caused delays on the SkyTrain, Vancouver’s public transit system.  The SkyTrain is an electric and fully automated train line that operates largely on an elevated tracks across 47 stations on three lines.  It seems that an accumulation of snow and ice on the SkyTrain’s power rail is enough to temporarily cripple the service, which is unfortunately what happened when two trains stalled in separate places on the Canada line during the morning rush hour (read the full story here:

This Canada Line train couldn't cross Vancouver's Fraser River Bridge because of ice and snow.

This incident aside, the climate in Vancouver is generally moderate and similar to that of the UK with dry summers and wet winters due its coastal location.  Although the average January temperature across Canada can drop as low as -5°C in Toronto, -12°C in Edmonton and even -28°C in Yellowknife, the average temperature in Vancouver in January is 0.5°C [1]. Not even freezing, which explains the lack of snow. Yes, I said lack of snow. In Canada.  Hard as it is to believe, Vancouver has the third lowest snowfall among 100 major cities, with an 11% chance of a white Christmas[2].  That’s not to say it doesn’t get any of the white stuff at all, and indeed these pictures show otherwise, but the city itself isn’t quite the snow covered scene from Ice Road Truckers that most people imagine when they think of Canada in the winter.

Ice hockey on the frozen pond at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver

What Vancouver lacks in snow it more than makes up for in rain, with downpours lasting over 20 consecutive days not un-common[3].  It’s hard to believe that somewhere out there has more rain than the UK (and also that I’d be moving there), however from November to March Vancouver has almost double the amount of rain than Blighty.  Summers are generally much dryer than the UK with drought conditions prevailing at times, but whilst the temperatures in Toronto, Montreal and Ottowa settle in the mid 20s, the average temperature in Vancouver in July is 17°C [4].

So unfortunately it’s back to work for me tomorrow after a much needed four day weekend, but if my days in the snow taught me anything it’s that those waterproof, fleece lined snow boots on my Christmas list will definitely have a place in my suitcase come January.  And that my soggy , water stained Ugg boots will not.

Photos courtesy of The Vancouver Sun.


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About MarmitetoMaple

I'm originally from the UK and have been working and living the dream in Vancouver, BC, since January 2011. I am a firm believer in travel, good cheese, volunteering and community engagement.

One response to “Climate Control”

  1. Stavroula says :

    You must tell us more about those boots.

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