Late in 2022, Environment and Climate Change Canada released its annual list of the top 10 weather events of the year. Sure, weather stats show that 2021 was more destructive, disruptive, and expensive than 2022. But last year was no weather picnic. Remember Fiona? Remember the billion-dollar derecho? “In 2022, Mother Nature either froze, buried, soaked, smothered, blew at, or frightened us at various times throughout the year,” the ECCC announced in its official roundup press release. Here’s which events made the top 10. Drum roll, please!
No. 1 Hurricane Fiona
No surprise here: Fiona topped the destruct-o list. She pummelled Atlantic Canada with rain, wind, storm surges, and waves; rainfall amounts topped 150 mm in parts of the Maritimes and eastern Quebec, and rainfall rates, at times, exceeded 30 mm per hour. Winds exceeded 100 km/h in five provinces, blowing, in some cases, for 12 hours straight, knocking down power poles and 100-year-old trees. It was “likely the most damaging hurricane in Canadian history,” says the ECCC. No kidding.
No. 2 The Ontario and Quebec derecho
If you didn’t know what a derecho was at the beginning of 2022, you do now. The group of thunderstorms that hit Ontario and Quebec over the May long weekend was the first time in the history of the ECCC’s weather service that the government issued a severe weather phone alert through the National Public Alerting System. According to the ECCC, the service only issues such an alert if winds reach 130 km/h or if the storm produces hail that measures more than seven centimetres (picture spheres the size of baseballs falling from the sky).
No.3 A wet, wet spring in Manitoba
Record amounts of melting snow combined with record amounts of rain—more than three times the 30-year normal—meant that the province experienced some of its most extensive and longest-lasting flooding in years. The heavy rainfalls happened intensely and quickly, faster than the still-frozen ground could absorb the excess water. Multiple rivers were at risk of overflowing; 45 municipalities and nine First Nation communities across the province declared local states of emergency.
No. 4 Hot and dry all over
Summer 2022 was the third-warmest on record for Canada (2012 and 1998 were hotter); temperatures were, across the country, nearly 1.6°C “above normal.” A huge and persistent heat dome engulfed much of Western North America. It wasn’t as intense as the 2021 heat dome, but it lasted longer, and many weather-recording sites broke century-long records for August through October.
No.5 The double-coast wildfires
Even though the B.C. wildfire season started slowly thanks to a wet spring (see No.6), by July it was in full force. The first major blaze (the Nohomin Creek Fire) broke out on July 14 just west of Lytton, B.C. By the end of July, another major blaze, the Keremeos Creek wildfire, had broken out near Penticton. By the beginning of August, the provincial government had issued 1,000 property evacuations. On the other side of the country, meanwhile, parts of central Newfoundland were experiencing the worst wildfires in more than 60 years. Why? Summer temperatures were warmer by 2 to 3°C and rainfall was, across the province, up to 70 per cent below normal.
No. 6 Spring is winter in B.C.
In B.C., winter 2022 lasted until nearly the first day of summer. Multiple communities across the province had record-breaking lows over the Easter weekend. In fact, twenty-seven record-low temperatures were set on April 16; Vancouver registered its coldest day for that month since observations began in 1896. Nanaimo, meanwhile, experienced its wettest April since 1892. And in Victoria, between May 20 and June 18—a.k.a. the dry season—23 out of 30 days were wet. Ugh.
No. 7 Super-storms in the Prairies
July in the Prairies was stormy. Super stormy. At least four powerful and dangerous July thunderstorms barrelled from the Alberta foothills to eastern Manitoba, bringing rain, huge hail, gusty winds, and tornadoes. The first one hit the afternoon of July 7, developing over central and southern Alberta. The town of Bergen recorded an EF-2 tornado—wind speeds between 180 and 190 km/h. The next day brought golf-ball size hail and four more tornadoes in parts of Saskatchewan (near Paynton and Blaine Lake). Then, on July 9, yet another tornado touched down near Argyle. Unfortunately, that tornado-tastic storm was just the first in the month-long series of storms. Take a break, Mother Nature!
No.8 The “humongous” amount of rain in Montreal
September brought urban flooding—a phenomenon “that is becoming more frequent and more impactful”—to the Quebec city. Downtown, along with the eastern suburbs, received a month’s worth of rain in just two hours. The downpour swamped intersections and underpasses with up to a metre of water. Highways and streets had to close, and water poured into Montreal Metro stations. Flooded pipes and sewers shot manhole covers into the air, and cars were stranded. According to the ECCC, insurance losses totalled $166 million. This makes the Montreal rain event the third most expensive extreme weather disaster in 2022 after the Ontario-Quebec derecho and Hurricane Fiona.
No.9 Record-breaking cold to ring in the new year
In December 2021, an extremely cold air mass from Siberia descended across most of Northern and Western Canada. On Christmas Eve, the N.W.T’s Deadmen Valley recorded a low of -45°C. (The only place on earth colder was Yakutsk, Russia, at -48°C.) Elsewhere, at times, everywhere from B.C. to Northern Ontario was under an extreme cold weather warning, with wind chills ranging between -40 and -55. On December 26, Key Lake, Sask., plunged to -42.1°C (-50 wind chill); two days later, Edmonton, Alta., followed suit, breaking a record set in 1880. The new year was worse, especially for those in the Northwest Territories. Between January 5 and 7, the temperature in Whitehorse plummeted to -44.8°C and at Watson Lake it bottomed out at -52.2°C. (A record-low, of course.)
No. 10 Three weekends of January storms in Atlantic Canada
Atlantic Canada couldn’t catch a break in January 2022. During the first week of the year, a storm intensified into a bomb cyclone along the Eastern seaboard before arriving in the Maritimes. Cape Breton got the worst of the storm’s snow: up to 50 cm. Then, on January 15, Cape Breton got another smackdown as a similar storm from the mid-Atlantic directly hit it. Poor Cape Breton. Finally, at the end of the month, a third weekend storm formed in the south before walloping New England and getting stronger as it closed in on Canada. In New Brunswick, the added snow, dumped onto already huge snow drifts, lead to zero visibility conditions, and northern parts of Nova Scotia were hit with more than 40 cm. Snow-maggedon!
And…that’s a wrap on 2022. Let’s see what 2023 brings. Get ready.