Like location, climate has been
a decisive factor in shaping the Newfoundland and Labrador
experience. The overall climate of the province is marked by
considerable seasonality and volatility, often with short-term
changes to the weather patterns that can be difficult to predict.
|Satellite image of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Modified by Tina Riche from a black and white image courtesy of the Shoe Cove Satellite Station, Shoe Cove, Conception Bay, Newfoundland.
(49 kb) with more information.
Three principal factors shape the
- The province is in a geographic zone characterised by marked seasonal
differences in the amount of energy received from the sun,
and by winds blowing predominantly from the west;
- The position of Newfoundland
with respect to the Canadian mainland, and the division
of the province into island and mainland portions,
leads to distinctive onshore and offshore local airflow
features for the island and Labrador;
- The extensive area of cold
water and seasonal ice offshore, including the Labrador Current
system, has a direct bearing upon
climate and weather; and the distinctly warmer Gulf
Steam/North Atlantic Drift system to the southeast of
the Grand Banks affects the properties of
air reaching the province from the south and east.
In addition, landform features
such as prominent uplands, and mountain ranges, and sheltered
valleys and lowlands, influence the finer details of climate and
Because the province extends
across a considerable span of latitude (46.5-60.5°N) and
longitude (from the continental interior of western Labrador to
the southeastern peninsulas of the island with their exposure to
the sea), the timing, duration and climatic character of the
seasons varies substantially across the province.
Paul Parsons' "Bannerman Park".
A fall scene with a early snowfall.
©1971, Oil on Masonite, 45 x 76.5 cm.
Reproduced by permission of Paul Parsons.
Oil on Masonite ©1971. Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador,
Arts and Culture Centre, St. John's, Newfoundland.
here as the season having long-term ("climatological")
average daily temperatures below freezing (0°C), varies in
length from approximately six months over northern and western
Labrador (November through April) to four months (December
through March) over much of the island. Over much of the interior
of Labrador temperatures remain in the range -5 to -30°C for
prolonged periods, with a continuous snow cover, but due to more
frequent polar and arctic high pressure patterns, the weather is
clear and drier.
The southeast corner of
Labrador has winter weather more akin to the island, being
subject to vigorous storm systems approaching from the south and
southwest, resulting in more frequent precipitation and high
winds. On the island especially, a major characteristic of winter
is the wide variation in snowfall, and the depth and duration of
snow cover, both spatially and between winters, which is of
particular significance for water resources, ground
transportation systems and winter recreational activity.
|The storm of 1995.
The main highway in southern Labrador is reduced to a single
lane following the big storm of March 1995. Total snowfall
accumulation for the month of March was about 200cm. The
largest drifts topped 12m.
Reproduced by permission of Ewart and Sharleen Linstead. Photos ©1995.
The onset of spring is delayed by
a prevalence of cool polar air masses and low sea surface
temperature. Mean daily temperatures reach the melting point
earliest over the Avalon and Burin peninsulas (near April 1), but
about a month later over lowland southeastern areas of Labrador
and the Goose Bay area, and not until the second half of May over
northern Labrador. Coastal areas exposed to the north and east
endure repeated spells of low cloud, fog and light precipitation,
though areas well inland and to the west are much less affected.
In general, however, there is a significant reduction in both
precipitation and the frequency of high winds during the period
from May until July, more especially on the island.
||Spring fog bank over the Outer Battery, St. John's.
Reproduced by permission of Trevor Bell. Photo ©1995.
The retreat of the polar front
jet stream to the north, combined with the shift in prevailing
wind direction to southwest, causes a change in the temperature
patterns by mid-late June. The highest daily maximum temperatures
of summer (typically 27-31°C) normally occur well away from the south
coast, which is now more vulnerable to sea fog. There is a marked
cooling northward on the Northern Peninsula, whilst Labrador,
which remains closer to the northern summer cyclone tracks,
normally experiences a wetter summer than the island.
During the fall the southern
coasts of the island cool relatively slowly, owing to the
of the ocean and delayed onset of colder air masses
from the north. Consequently, the mean daily air temperature on
the Avalon Peninsula does not fall below 0°C until
almost mid December, two months later than for western and
northern Labrador. Over the entire province there is a marked
increase in precipitation and strong wind frequencies during
October and November.
©1999, Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Web Site Project