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Much of Canada likely in for a green Christmas

Holiday shoppers navigatea busy parking lot at Yorkdale Mall in Toronto on a mild Dec. 15, 2012.

J.P. MOCZULSKI/The Globe and Mail

Waking up to a winter wonderland on Christmas Day will be more of a dream than reality for many parts of the country, cautions Canada's top weather man.

Environment Canada's senior climatologist David Phillips says he hates to be the grinch, but the chances of having snow on the ground on Dec. 25 are looking bleak for many Canadians.

"It's one of the things where we're seen united as Canadians, in wanting it to be a white Christmas," said Mr. Phillips.

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"We want it on that day to put us in the mood. It's almost like (having) turkey and toys. It's just part of the feeling at Christmas time."

But the reality is that only about a quarter of the population will have that wish come true – especially if you live in Alberta, Saskatchewan or Manitoba.

"There are some areas in Canada that are clearly a done deal," he said. "Out west, not only is it going to be a white Christmas, it's going to be a white Easter. They've been buried in snow."

Newfoundland, parts of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island also have some chances of a wintry Christmas, along with those living in Ottawa, Sault Ste Marie, Ont., Quebec City and Montreal.

Yet for those living in most parts of Ontario, British Columbia and many other locations, Mr. Phillips says it's a "toss up" that you'll probably get better weather on Christmas Day for football game than tobogganing.

Environment Canada defines a white Christmas as having at least two centimetres of snow on the ground on the morning of Dec. 25.

According to statistics the agency has kept since 1955, the chances of getting a white Christmas have been dropping across Canada year after year.

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"We have this reputation. We are known as the Cold White North. But I don't think we're as cold and white as we once were," said Mr. Phillips.

"Our reputation is being undermined. Winter is not ... what it used to be. It was more of a done deal. It was more of a guarantee."

In fact, on average there was an 80 per cent chance of having a snowfall on Christmas Day in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

Fast-forward to the last 20 years, and those odds on average have slipped to 65 per cent, according to Environment Canada.

That's most true in Toronto where there hasn't been any snow on the ground on Dec. 25 since 2008. That winter, parts of Southern Ontario was repeatedly walloped with snowstorms carrying high winds and bringing near-record snow fall levels.

Mr. Phillips says this year, even if you do get a wintry holiday, it is more likely to be a light dusting than a big dump come Christmas Day.

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Many of the reasons for the warmer winters can be attributed to climate change, he added.

"The lesson for this is if you get one: embrace it, enjoy it because it is something that future generations will have be dreaming a little harder to get," said Mr. Phillips. "We know the future is warmer and with less snow."

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