Changes in temperature

Temperatures have increased across Canada. The rate of warming in Canada is about double the global average, with warming occurring even faster in northern Canada.

Temperature concepts

Temperature is measured in degrees Celsius (°C).

Temperature may be given as a daily maximum, daily minimum or daily mean (average):

  • daily maximum temperature is the hottest temperature in a day
  • daily minimum temperature is the coldest temperature in a day
  • daily mean temperature is the average of the maximum temperature and minimum temperature in a day

Temperature data may also be given over different time periods, such as a month, season or year. For example, average maximum summer temperature is the average of the hottest temperature each day of June, July and August.

Change in temperature refers to how the temperature has changed from a specific reference period. A reference period helps us measure change over time.

Chart showing fall temperatures, September to November, from 1970 to 2017. See long description below for full data
Long description and data source

A graph showing the trend of increasing average annual temperature in Canada from 1948-2016 for a total increase of 1.7°C.

Trend in annual Canadian temperature is from Canadian Gridded Temperature and Precipitation Anomalies (CANGRD) from 1948 to 2016.

Patterns of temperature change in Canada

The average (mean) annual temperature in Canada increased by 1.7 °C from 1948 to 2016, about double the global rate. Warming has been even stronger in the north. The average annual temperature in northern Canada (north of 60 degrees latitude) has risen by 2.3 °C over this same period, about triple the global rate.

Future changes in temperature will be determined mainly by the amount of greenhouse gases emitted. There is a large range of possible futures. These are described by different emissions scenarios. In general, higher global emissions scenarios project greater warming.

Compared to the recent past (1986 to 2005), average annual temperature in Canada is projected to increase between 1.8 °C and 6.3 °C1 by the end of the century. However, projected temperature changes vary regionally and by season. Northern Canada is expected to continue experiencing stronger warming than the rest of Canada, especially in the winter.

Find temperature data in the library of climate resources.

Figure 1: Projected changes in annual temperature from the 1986 to 2005 reference period. Changes are for the end of the century assuming a high global emission scenario.

Projected changes in annual temperature from the 1986-2005 reference period. Changes are for the end of the century assuming a high global emission scenario.

This figure is a map of projected changes in annual temperature by the end of the 21st century across the Canadian landmass. Changes in annual temperature are relative to the 1986-2005 reference period. The dataset used here is a statistically downscaled dataset, based on the Bias Correction/Constructed Analogues with Quantile mapping reordering (BCCAQ) version 2. The emission scenario used here is the Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5.

Long description

The colours on the map indicate the amount of projected change. Temperature changes range from around 4 to 10 degrees Celsius. The largest changes are seen in northern regions, particularly over the Arctic Archipelago, where changes are around 10 degrees Celsius. The smallest changes in Canada are seen on the southwest coast of British Columbia and the Atlantic provinces. 

Impacts of temperature change

Rising temperatures will impact many aspects of Canadians’ lives. For example, longer and more intense heat waves are associated with increased heat related illnesses and deaths, especially amongst vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and those with existing health conditions. Extended heat also increases the demand for cooling, increasing electricity costs in summer, and the risk of food and water-borne contamination.

Warmer temperatures can allow the spread of forest and agricultural pests and disease-vectors (such as ticks) into new regions. Hotter and drier conditions increase the risk of droughts and wildfires.

In the North, the impacts of higher temperatures are already severe and will intensify in coming decades.  Examples include safety concerns associated with less predictable sea ice conditions, infrastructure damage from permafrost thaw and shortened winter road seasons.

Adapting to changing temperature

Most sectors of the Canadian economy are sensitive to temperature changes and will need to adapt.  Examples from 3 sectors are highlighted here.

Health: Local health authorities are developing heat alert and response systems to help keep Canadians safe during heat waves. Public health managers are developing surveillance and control methods for diseases that are becoming more common in Canada, such as Lyme disease. Municipalities are increasing tree cover to make cities cooler.

Energy: Adaptation includes measures to reduce future electricity consumption. This includes programs and standards that promote energy efficiency, and energy conservation practices, such as shading and enhanced natural ventilation. Increasing the resilience of energy infrastructure to extreme weather, such as high winds and storms is also an example of adaptation.

Agriculture: Adaptation to higher temperatures includes introducing new crops, shifting the timing of planting, extending the growing season and improving water management practices. Enhanced monitoring and surveillance for livestock diseases and pests, to allow for early detection and treatment, is also an example of adaptation.

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