What’s up with this mild winter? Is spring going to come early? What the heck is El Nino, anyway? Environment Canada meteorologist Marie-Eve Giguere answers your weather questions.

What can we expect in the Montreal forecast this week?

This week will be busy enough weather wise. We’re expecting to play yo-yo once again. This Monday morning (was) rather mild, but temperatures are on a cooling trend so Tuesday will be cool.

Then we’re expecting a fairly large weather system, a wintry mix for Wednesday, so it could be a tough rush hour for commuters Wednesday morning. The system will begin with some snow accumulation, maybe about 10 centimetres, maybe more, but then it will turn into freezing rain and then rain with mild temperatures that may even reach the double digits above zero.

Cold temperatures are on the way after this wintry mix on Wednesday, changing to rain and mild temperatures, and then starting Friday, we should be below zero for at least the following week.

This winter has been mild. Why is this happening?

El Niño definitely plays an important role in what we’re seeing right now, with those mild temperatures and also a lack of precipitation. For example, in January Montreal had half the rain and half the snow it normally gets, so drier and milder temperatures.

It is observed as very strong El Nino this year, so an almost record-breaking El Nino.

What is El Niño, anyway?

El Niño is something that happens in the Pacific Ocean at the equator. It’s very far from us but it has a planetary-scale influence. It is characterized by warmer-than-normal sea-surface temperatures, so we’re observing now surface temperatures at the equator that are warmer than they would be – and it has an effect all across the world

How often do we experience El Nino?

It’s a cycle. When sea-surface temperatures are warmer than normal, it’s El Niño, and when sea-surface temperatures are cooler than normal in the Pacific, it’s La Niña.

We observe El Niño every two to seven years, and we’ve been observing it since 1950.

Will spring come early this year?

It’s still too early to tell.

What’s happening now doesn’t necessarily mean anything for the arrival of spring, but that being said, just looking back at the El Nino events that we’ve recorded since 1960, we have noticed that in Quebec, when we have milder-than-normal winters, spring has arrived a bit earlier those years, so the trends are on our side for those awaiting spring, but it’s hard to tell at this point.

This Q&A has been edited and condensed. Watch the video for the complete interview.