From a green Christmas to a hibernating bear's early wake-up, Montreal's 2023-24 winter season has been the second-warmest since record-keeping began in 1871, an Environment Canada meteorologist said.

Gregory Yang said the mean temperatures for December, January and February were each approximately four degrees warmer than the "climatological means" recorded over the 30-year period between 1981 and 2010.

Yang said the city experienced a record-breaking high of 14.9 degrees on Feb. 27, and the overall winter temperature was surpassed only by the 2001-2002 season.

"The records go back since 1871, so that’s pretty long," he said.

The warm weather even prompted the resident black bear at a zoo west of Montreal to emerge from hibernation a little earlier than usual.

Ecomuseum spokeswoman Sarah Prince-Robin said Genie the bear made her first official outing of the year on Friday, just in time for the start of many students' spring break.

Prince-Robin says there are a number of factors that affect how early a bear wakes up, but temperature and barometric pressure are two of the ways they can tell spring is around the corner.

"At the Ecomuseum we consider that the bears are even better than the groundhog to announce the spring," she said.

Yang said the mean temperature was -1 C for December, -5.3 C for January, and -3.4 for February. That compares to the 1981-2010 averages of -5.4 C, -9.7 C and -7.7 C, for the same respective months.

Montreal winter second-warmest on record, @environmentca says. #Montreal #Winter #WarmWeather

December across Quebec was marked by an important snowfall deficit as well as temperatures well above average, Environment Canada reported in early January. While Montreal's snowfall was closer to average due to an early December storm, the city was one of many places across the province that experienced a green Christmas.

January and February were also mild, though marked at times by wild temperature swings that frustrated ski hill operators as well as fans of winter sports like outdoor skating and cross-country skiing.

The Weather Network's spring forecast, released last week, suggested that most Canadians can look forward to similar conditions this spring. The network called for a warmer-than-normal season, but also warned Canadians to brace for the season’s "profound mood swings."

The forecast released Wednesday predicts that the unusually mild winter seen across much of the country thanks to El Niño conditions will pave the way for even more pleasant weather in the coming weeks, but not without some interruptions.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2024.

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