New climate data out this week shows that 2021 was a hot year — the sixth hottest on record, according to NASA.

Probably not surprising to Canadians who witnessed this summer’s record-breaking temperatures, devastating wildfires and the drought in the prairies.

«If you stuck a thermometer into Canada this past year, it would be 2.4 degrees warmer than the normal would be,» said David Phillips, senior climatologist at Environment and Climate Change Canada.

But if you think it was those wicked summer temperatures that drove up our annual temperature, you’d be wrong.

The biggest change is actually happening to Canada’s winters.

«We often hear globally [that] we’ve warmed up by one degree in the past 200 years,» Phillips said. «Well, in 74 years, [Canada has] warmed up by 1.9 degrees in that period. And the one season that is warmed up the most is winter … by 3.7 degrees, nationally.»

Still, the summer heat waves were startling to Phillips, who has been a climatologist for more than 50 years.

«Even for me, it was a shock to see the impacts, the effects of this extraordinary warming,» he said. «I think what was so interesting was that Canadians were witness to it.… We’d read reports on it and documentaries, but for us, it really hit home. This wasn’t something that occurred in Bangladesh or Botswana. This was occurring in Burnaby and Burlington.»

Reporting by Nicole Mortillaro, CBC News

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