Nova Scotia weather is controlled by the sea. Why do I say that?
Nova Scotia is a peninsula, meaning it is almost completely surrounded by water. We have the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the north, the Bay of Fundy to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the south and east of us.
So what does this mean? Well as it says on our license plates we are really Canada's Ocean Playground.
But it also means so much more than this. We owe almost everything to the sea and especially our climate. The water influences everything from our harsh winters, reluctant springs, lingering falls, amount of fog, and our abundance of snow and other moisture.
So let's have a look at what this means for our Nova Scotia weather.
As mentioned the waters surrounding the province play a major part of our Nova Scotia weather. The Atlantic Ocean and Bay of Fundy water is relatively cold averaging around 8 - 12ºC (46.4 - 53.6ºF). This keeps the average temperatures cooler in the southwest part of the province (our area) in spring and summer.
But these same waters with an average temperature of 0 - 4ºC (32 - 39.2ºF) in January also help to moderate the harshness of winters.
The warmer Gulf Stream that is located farther offshore to the east, southeast and south of the province has an average temperature of 16ºC (60.8ºF). This also affects our Nova Scotia weather, especially in the months of August until October when it can prolong our falls. Because of this many people consider the fall as the best season here. The warm waters from the Gulf to the north of the province contrast with the air temperatures to cause onshore sea breezes about August. These winds will hold off the start of fall weather for a few weeks.
Then on the other hand the ice conditions in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Bay of Fundy can prolong the arrival of our springs depending on how much ice is built up and for how long.
The cool ocean water does help our Nova Scotia weather during the summer months. It does this by stabilizing overriding air masses and this suppresses any local storms from developing.
However many storms do pass close to the Atlantic coast causing parts of Nova Scotia to average more storms than in other parts of Canada. Our winter storms can be bad with high winds and lots of precipitation. These storms may pass over quickly, or they can stall and batter the region for days.
These nor'easters can occasionally produce hurricane-force winds gusting to over 150km/h. These can peak wave heights to 14m and at high tides they can produce storm surges of more than a meter. The minimum wind speed for a storm to be classified as a hurricane is 72 mph or 115kph.
It is not unusual for us to receive at least a couple storms during the winter that drop 25cm or more of snow on us. We may also experience several ice storms, freezing rain and blizzards during the winter months. But bad as that all sounds, we also experience several thaws during our winters offering some very nice days indeed. Our Nova Scotia weather is known to change from day to day.
In late summer and fall we are also vulnerable to remnants of hurricanes and tropical storms coming up from the south. Most of these have lost most of their punch however by the time they hit us, but they will still bring in very high winds and heavy rainfall.
On the good side of our Nova Scotia weather, we are not known for a lot of severe thunder & lightening storms. Our average of thunder & lightening is about 10 days per year, which is down from any other Canadian province.
Although a few tornadoes have been recorded in Nova Scotia, they are very rare. We do have several reports of waterspouts over shore waters, but they rarely hit landfall.
The winds in Nova Scotia can vary from one spot to another on any given day. Even from locations fairly close to each other. The variation that occurs in both direction and speed are effected by natural and man-made obstructions, topography and surface cover. During a hot day in the summer when there is no wind in the Annapolis Valley, it is not uncommon to find a nice cool breeze blowing off the water along the Bay of Fundy.
Predominantly our Nova Scotia weather will show that the summer winds come out of the south or southwest and blow with an average speed of 10 to 15 km/h. This changes in the coldest days of winter when the wind will come out of the west and northwest and have an average speed of 22 km/h.
Our Nova Scotia weather can prove to produce cooler temperatures during our summers. Average afternoon summer temperatures reach around 25ºC (77ºF) in the interior of the province, but can be 4 - 6 degrees cooler along the coast. The cooling effect of the ocean will keep the temperatures at about 2 - 3ºC below those inland during the nighttime also.
Winter temperatures are moderate along the coast. Yarmouth has an average January temperature of -2.7ºC (36.8ºF) which is the highest of any mainland station in the Maritimes. Inland the temperatures in January average between -4 to -6ºC (24.8 - 21.2ºF).
One factor for our great growing season in the Annapolis Valley is the amount of days we have without frost during the year. We can have up to 140 frost-free days here, compared to the highlands of Cape Breton where they have less than 100 frost-free days. Most agricultural areas will experience approximately 120 - 130 frost-free days between late May and early October, which is the effective growing season for most crops.
Here is a table showing the Daily Average Temperatures from the Environment Canada Website - Canadian Climate Normal’s 1971 - 2000. These were taken from the weather station at Annapolis Royal.
Remember these are average and will vary, warmer farther in the valley and cooler on the Bay of Fundy shore.
Well we can't talk about our Nova Scotia weather without talking about our precipitation. We usually experience a good supply of rain for our growing season, which is great for our crops. However we have experienced droughts in some years. Our precipitation amount is usually greater in the late fall and early winter mainly because of the more frequent and intense storm activity.
On average we will experience about 15% of our annual precipitation as snow, although this is usually higher in Cape Breton. Along the coast this amount is down quite a bit, and of course higher on the higher elevations. The snow cover season, when there is at least 2.5 cm of snow on the ground varies considerably across the province. It can be as much as 140 days inland and as low as 110 days along the southern coast. It is said that Halifax experiences a 50/50 chance of having a white Christmas.
Here is a table showing average monthly rain and snowfall amounts taken from the weather station in Annapolis Royal by Environment Canada - Canadian Climate Normal’s 1971 - 2000.
The average rainfall amounts each month is shown in millimeters in the middle row and inches in the bottom row.
The average snowfall amounts is shown for each month in centimeters in the middle row and in inches in the bottom row.
Did you know we have a reputation of being a foggy province? Well I guess when you are brought up here it just seems natural, but it is a big part of our Nova Scotia weather. According to Environment Canada the Halifax International Airport averages 122 days with fog each year.
The period from mid-spring to early summer are the foggiest. This is mainly because the chilled air above the Labrador Current mixes with the warm moisture-laden air moving onshore from the Gulf Stream. This causes thick fog banks which are blown inland by onshore winds.
No part of Nova Scotia is completely fog free, although inland from the Minas Basin has no more fog than Toronto.
All this means with the fog, mist, low cloud cover and smog we experience a lesser amount of sunshine. Sunshine totals range from 1700 to 1969 hours a year. July is the sunniest month inland and August is the sunniest month along the coast. Sunny days, on which less than 70% of the sky is covered with cloud in the early afternoon, amount to between 130 to 160, with a peak from July through October.
Well I hope this report on our Nova Scotia weather has given you some idea of what our weather is like here. It is not that bad. No we are not a "hot spot", but our temperatures are comfortable and good for exploring the area. What is really nice here is that on those hot and humid days during the summer you can take a short drive over the North Mountain and get cooled off a bit from the nice breeze along the Bay of Fundy shore.
Click on the lighthouse to check out what type of weather to expect while here.
Click on the Ferry to find out how to get here.
Click on the King George Inn to find places to stay in the Annapolis Valley
Click on the lobster to find places to eat in the valley.
Click on us if you have stories about the Annapolis Valley to share.
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