TORONTO -- Canada's top weatherman says this country's groundhogs got it wrong -- and now, as spring arrives, he's forecasting six more weeks of winter weather.

After a tough winter that plunged the Prairies in a deep freeze, Prince Edward Island in the dark and central and Atlantic Canada under mounds of snow, spring is officially starting Thursday.

But Environment Canada senior climatologist Dave Phillips says don't put away those snow shovels just yet.

"The first day of spring is one thing, but the first spring day is another,'' said Phillips.

Back in February, Ontario's Wiarton Willie, Nova Scotia's Shubenacadie Sam and stuffed mascot Balzac Billy in Alberta all predicted an early spring -- as did two of their southern brethren -- Woody from Howell, Mich., and Gen. Beauregard Lee in Georgia. Only Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil spotted his shadow on Groundhog Day and forecasted six more weeks of winter.

Phillips said February and March have been the two most miserable months this winter.
And while Phillips is forecasting six more weeks of winter weather, he says not every day will be like that.

"We typically see in Eastern Canada anywhere of 10 to 15 per cent of our annual snowfall comes after the first day of spring,'' said Phillips. ''Out west some of the big Paul Bunyan snowfalls on the Prairies have occurred in April and May.''

Environment Canada is predicting the first month of spring is going to be colder than normal across the country.

In May, conditions will warm up in much of the East, but the forecast calls for colder than normal temperatures for the West, the territories, Newfoundland and Labrador, and in the northern half of Quebec.

On the bright side, Phillips said, the days are getting longer and we'll feel better about that.

The first weekend of spring in parts of Ontario and Quebec will feel anything but springlike, with temperatures that will be 13 degrees colder than normal for this time of year.

"This is supposed to be maple syrup weather with plus four and minus four (degree temperatures), melting during the day and freezing at night, and yet we're going to see negative double-digit temperatures (for the low) on the weekend,'' said Phillips.

A year ago, he said the temperatures were more like plus 12 and plus 15 in southern Ontario and southern Quebec.

"People were arranging their tee-off times, not waxing their skis,'' said Phillips.

He blames the lingering effects of La Nina for the long drawn-out winter -- the coldest in 12 years -- adding it feels so long because last year, we only had about six weeks of wintry weather.

La Nina is a cooling of the tropical Pacific Ocean that can cause changes in weather patterns around the world.

This winter was a bit of a throwback to the winters of the past -- with near-record snowfalls in the east. Phillips said Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa -- the world's snowiest national capital -- could still set records. They have until July to do so under the record-keeping rules.

The Montreal and Ottawa records were set in the winter of 1970-71. Montreal has received 357 centimetres of snow and needs to reach 383 to break the record, while Ottawa has had 419 centimetres -- the second snowiest winter on the books -- and needs to hit 444.6 centimetres for bragging rights.

Toronto -- in its fifth snowiest winter -- has had 187 centimetres and needs 20 centimetres more to break the 1938-39 mark.

All this snow has been good news for farmers and gardeners in southern Ontario, where there was a drought last year.

Levels of lakes and wells will be higher and there is more moisture in the soil, however farmers and gardeners will have to wait longer to plant because the snow has to melt first, and there's still frost in the ground, said Phillips.

It's a different situation on the Prairies, which has seen a lack of snow this winter and had a dry fall and summer, which is a concern for farmers there, he said.