Most Canadians will not wake up to a white Christmas tomorrow for the first time since Canada’s weather office began recording snowfalls in 1955, according to the government agency.
The same will be experienced by the Finns. Helsinki’s streets are festive with vibrant Christmas decorations and bright advertisements touting the season’s must-have gifts as shoppers bustle through packed stores, yet something is amiss: There’s no snow.
Environment Canada senior climatologist Dave Phillips said he has never seen so little snowpack in Canada’s cities.
And the forecast for the coming days is sunny and very mild.
“A white Christmas is usually a sure thing in Canada, but not this year,” said Mr Phillips.
“We are usually the snowiest country in the world,” he said. “But this year, like no other since we’ve been monitoring in 56 years, there will be many Canadians just dreaming of a white Christmas and not getting one.”
For a city to qualify as having a white Christmas, Environment Canada must note at least two centimetres of snow on the ground at 7 a.m. on December 25.
This month has been on average six to seven degrees Celsius warmer than normal and most snow that has fallen has melted soon after hitting the ground.
Gander, Newfoundland – usually “the snowiest place in Canada” – only has a trace of snow on the ground today, noted Mr Phillips.
Winnipeg, Manitoba – once ranked the coldest metropolis on earth – usually has a 98 per cent chance of snow at Christmas. But temperatures in the west of the country are expected to hover just above freezing in the coming days.
Mr Phillips pointed to a combination of climate change and an “urban heat island effect” created by Canada’s growing cities.
High energy use generates heat that is retained by materials in urban developments, resulting in areas that are consistently hotter than surrounding rural areas.
The absence of white stuff has not only left Christmas revellers gloomy, it has affected businesses ranging from ski resorts to retailers and of course, snow removal companies.
In Finland the situation is in stark contrast to last year’s heavy snowfalls at this time of year, when Finns showed off their “snow-how” to the grid-locked continent, including state-of-the-art snow removal and special motorist support teams.
But that was then. Now, Helsinki is experiencing uncharacteristically mild December temperatures, and only light dustings of snow have come and gone.
“At the beginning of December it was on average six degrees warmer than is usual for this time of year,” said meteorologist Pauli Jokinen.
He said the snow’s no-show in the south of the country this year was partly due to natural variations, but also a footprint of global warming.
“Our best guess is that in many parts of southern and western Finland it will be a black Christmas,” declared Mr Jokinen.
After last year’s excesses, this year’s lack of snow has stonewalled many businesses.
The balmy autumn forced the cancellation of two major skiing events in Levi, Finland’s northern nerve centre for competitive and recreational winter sports.
“The World Cup race and the European Cup had to be cancelled because of the lack of snow. These are very big events for the area,” explained Tarja Nikkanen, marketing manager for Levi Ski Resort.
Ms Nikkanen pointed out though, that with about 25 centimetres of snow on the ground and accommodation booked months in advance, the Christmas season still looks promising for tourists seeking a picture-perfect winter wonderland.
However, she noted that the ski slopes tell a different story.
“We have the biggest snow-making equipment in Finland, but we’re not able to use it because the temperatures are not low enough to keep the snow,” she remarked.