TORONTO - Canada is on track to have the hottest year on record by far — if La Nina doesn't blow it.

From January through July it's been 3.5 degrees warmer than normal, says Environment Canada's David Phillips.

That's considerably warmer than the record set in 1998, when temperatures hovered almost 2.5 degrees higher than normal for the whole year across the country.

"Unless we get into a big deep freeze from September on, this one certainly looks like it will be the warmest of all," Phillips said.

Models forecast that this year's trend will continue, with Central and Eastern Canada breaking records for the warmest September and October.

The 1998 record was set even though a La Nina formed that year.

This year, the same weather phenomenon developed in July as the waters of the central Pacific Ocean cooled.

La Nina usually brings cooler weather to Western Canada. But Phillips said he believes it won't have a dampening enough effect to keep 2010 out of the record books.

"It's going to have to be almost an Arctic outflow to undo this year as being the warmest year in history," added Phillips.

The stretch from Manitoba to Newfoundland, and most of the north, should expect to be warmer than usual in September. Normal to wetter than normal conditions are forecast in the East.

The growing season is ahead in the East by two to three weeks but is behind in the West.

Prairie farmers have had a miserable growing season and need a warm September like last year to salvage a decent growing season, he said.

But more often than not, they get their first killing frost or dump of snow in September. That would be almost ruinous for Prairie farmers, he added.

"Unfortunately our models are showing for September for most of the West either normal or cooler than normal temperatures. For precipitation it's showing wetter than normal," said Phillips.

Cooler than normal conditions will likely prevail for the West into October and November because of La Nina, which is expected to last through the winter.

Phillips guarantees we won't have a winter like last year, when it was four degrees warmer than usual.

"Last year we cancelled winter in this country," he said.

But that was an El Nino winter. It was the warmest, mildest and driest winter on record in 63 years, he said.

"Even if this winter turned out to be a normal winter, it'll feel brutal compared to last winter."

A La Nina winter means more Arctic air, more northern air and less Pacific air — and cooler than normal conditions over much of Western and perhaps Central Canada.

Western Canada usually sees more snow.

But in the Maritimes there's no strong signal like that.

Some areas tend to be a little warmer than normal, some colder. The East is affected by the Atlantic Ocean and weather systems from the south, Phillips said.

Environment Canada releases its fall forecast Sept. 2.