Canada has a reputation as a cold country. And for good reason! A large portion of the country has year-round snow and ice, making it inhabitable for most people. But, Canada is also a large country with multiple different geographic regions and climates. It can also get quite hot during some seasons of the year! However, when speaking on a global scale, Canada can be considered a cold country.
After Antarctica and Russia, Canada has recorded the third lowest temperature in the world. Temperatures in Canada during the winter can drop down to −40 °C. However, this is not necessarily the norm for the entire country.
The best way to look at the temperature and climates in Canada is to break it down into the different regions of the country. We will look at the typical temperatures in the following regions: the Pacific Maritime Climate Region, the Cordilleran Climate Region, the Prairie Climate Region, the Arctic Climate Region, the Southeastern Climate Region, and the Atlantic Maritime Climate Region. Each region is very unique and has its own features.
Pacific Maritime Climate Region
The pacific maritime region is on the west coast of Canada, making up the coastline of British Columbia. This area has the wettest weather, with a lot of rainfall over the region. The Pacific Ocean creates a moderating effect on the temperatures, keeping it fairly mild year-round.
Average temperatures: Temperatures during the winter months hover around freezing (zero degrees Celsius) and in the summer it can be as warm as 30 degrees celsius in the southern areas of the province (i.e. near Vancouver).
Is this region hot or cold? This area can be considered moderate—very rarely super hot or super cold.
Prairie Climate Region
The prairie climate region covers the central-western part of Canada. It generally includes the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. These provinces are characterized by their vast, flat grasslands. This is the primary agricultural area of the country, as the land is ideal for growing crops. Weather in the prairie climate region can range from quite hot to very cold.
Average temperatures: Temperatures vary significantly in this region, from lows down to -40 Celcius in the winter and up to 30 degrees Celsius in the summer.
Is this region hot or cold? Both. It can get very hot and very cold in the Prairies. But, this region is known for the cold temperatures and is one of the places people think of when considering “cold” Canada.
Arctic Climate Region
The Arctic region of Canada is the northernmost region, incorporating the territories of Yukon, Nunavut, and the Northwest Territories. This area of Canada has a very small population because the cold climate makes it inhabitable and undesirable for most people.
Most of the people who live in the north are Indigenous peoples who have lived in the region for thousands of years before European settlers colonized Canada. There are approximately 150,000 inhabitants in the Arctic region, less than 1% of the population of Canada.
Average temperatures: During the winter months, temperatures can get down to -35 degrees Celsius, or colder. The summer months of June-August warm-up, but generally hover just around freezing temperature, so it is never truly warm.
Is this region hot or cold? The Arctic region is cold year-round.
Southeastern Climate Region
This region of Canada encompasses the major urban areas in Ontario and Quebec like Toronto, Windsor, Ottawa, and Montreal. The climate in this region is wide and varied, with lots of precipitation during some seasons, fairly cold winters, and warm summers. It can be humid and hot in the summer months, but it can also get a lot of snow during the winter. It’s a true “four seasons” region.
Average temperatures: Temperatures in the summer can get up to the mid-20s or 30s Celsius, but during the winter they can drop down to -20 Celsius.
Is this region hot or cold? This region can be considered moderate, since the temperature fluctuates between hot and cold, but never too extreme.
Atlantic Maritime Climate Region
This region is the eastern area of Canada and includes the Atlantic provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. These provinces are small and less populated than other regions of Canada and are located on the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean. Similar to the Pacific coast, the ocean has a moderating effect on the region, making temperatures less extreme than in other parts of the country.
Average temperatures: Mean temperatures in the summer fluctuate between 13-16 degrees Celsius, and during the winter they are between -8 to -2 degrees Celsius.
Is this region hot or cold? Due to the moderating effects of being on the coast, the Atlantic maritime climate region is moderate.
Cold Weather Activities
As we’ve seen, the weather and climate vary significantly across Canada. Some areas are always cold, like the Arctic, while others will get warm or even hot during the summer. That said, the whole country experiences cold winter seasons. Canadians are known for their love of outdoor recreation activities and Canada is a popular destination to enjoy the snow and cold weather! Popular cold-weather activities in Canada include:
- Skiing and snowboarding. Many people visit BC and Alberta to go skiing in the Rocky Mountains.
- Snowshoeing. Hiking is popular during the warm months, and many people will hike those same trails with snowshoes in the winter.
- Snowmobiling and ATVing. For someone looking for a little speed and adrenaline, these are great options to explore the snow-covered forests, hills, and mountains in Canada!
- Skating and hockey. Hockey is the most iconic Canadian sport and a lot of people grow up playing ice hockey on outdoor skating rinks. And if you don’t want to play the sport, ice skating is a pretty fun activity too!
Canada is known as a cold country, and in a lot of ways, it is. All regions of Canada experience cold weather during the winter months, though some are colder than others. Some regions, like the northern Arctic region, are cold year-round. So, if you are planning on visiting Canada, make sure to research where you are going to see what kind of temperature to expect. If you end up going during the winter, dress warm and have some fun with cold-weather activities!