Toronto is located in Southern Ontario on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. The history of Toronto began in the late 18th century when the British Crown purchased its land from the Mississaugas of the New Credit. The British established a settlement there, called the Town of York, which its lieutenant governor, John Graves Simcoe, designated as the capital of Upper Canada. The city was ransacked in the Battle of York during the War of 1812. In 1834, York was incorporated as a city and renamed Toronto. It was damaged in two huge fires in 1849 and 1904. Over the years, Toronto has expanded its borders several times through amalgamation with surrounding municipalities, most recently in 1998.
According to the 2011 Census, the city has 2.6 million residents, making it the fifth-most populous city in North America. However, in 2012, the municipal government published a population estimate of 2,791,140, which led to media reports claiming Toronto as the fourth most populous city in North America and the most populous Great Lakes city, surpassing Chicago. The census metropolitan area (CMA) had a population of 5,583,064, and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) had a population of 6,054,191 in the 2011 Census. Toronto is at the heart of the Greater Toronto Area, and of the densely populated region in Southern Ontario known as the Golden Horseshoe. Its cosmopolitan and international population reflects its role as an important destination for immigrants to Canada. Toronto is one of the world’s most diverse cities by percentage of non-native-born residents, with about 49% of the population born outside Canada. As Canada’s commercial capital, it is home to the Toronto Stock Exchange and the five largest banks in the nation. Toronto will host the 2015 Pan American Games.
Toronto has a humid continental climate (Köppen: Dfa/Dfb), with warm, humid summers and cold winters. The city experiences four distinct seasons, with considerable variance in day to day temperature, particularly during the colder weather season. Owing to urbanization and its proximity to water, Toronto has a fairly low diurnal temperature range (day-night temperature difference). The denser urban scape makes for warmer nights year around and is not as cold throughout the winter than surrounding areas (particularly north of the city); however, it can be noticeably cooler on many spring and early summer afternoons under the influence of a lake breeze. Other low-scale maritime effects on the climate include lake-effect snow, fog and delaying of spring- and fall-like conditions, known as seasonal lag.
In 1998, the cities of Toronto, Scarborough, North York, Etobicoke, and York and the Borough of East York amalgamated to form the current City of Toronto. This is also known as Metropolitan Toronto or “the 416” after its area code (although now there are some new area codes, the majority of landline phone numbers in the Toronto area are still “416”). The city has a population of over 2.6 million people, of which more than half were born outside Canada: a fact immediately obvious to any visitor, as the city has many vibrant bustling neighbourhoods with street signs in several languages.
Toronto and its surrounding suburbs are collectively known as the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Outlying suburbs are also known as “the 905” after their area code, although technically this code is also used in both Hamilton and the Niagara Region, stretching to the border within Niagara Falls. The entire area including Toronto is known as the “Golden Horseshoe” and has a population of over 8 million people. Distances between cities in the area can be great as it sprawls along, outward and even wraps around the western end of Lake Ontario. Public transit is not always effective enough for a quick or seamless trip and many suburban residents rely on motor vehicles to get around.
A popular urban myth has it that the United Nations rated Toronto as “the most multicultural city in the world.” While the UN and its agencies are not in the habit of rating cities, it remains a fact that Canada is a nation of immigrants, and Toronto demonstrates this abundantly. A UN agency lists Toronto as second only to Miami as the city with the most foreign-born residents, but Toronto’s residents represent far more cultural and language groups, which is arguably a better measure of multi-culturalism. Most immigrants either pass through
Toronto on their way to other parts of the country or stay in Toronto permanently. Many people born abroad consider themselves, and are considered, to be as Canadian as native born Canadians, and asserting or behaving as though otherwise is considered offensive, especially so in Toronto. This contributes to the overall cultural mosaic that is Toronto today. Within Toronto, most ethnic groups will work their way into the fabric of Canadian society but some still retain their distinct ways such as language, dress (if only for special occasions), custom, and food.
Toronto winters sometimes feature cold snaps where maximum temperatures remain below −10 °C (14 °F), often made to feel colder by wind chill. Snowstorms, sometimes mixed with ice and rain, can disrupt work and travel schedules, accumulating snow can fall any time from November until mid-April. However, mild stretches also occur in most winters melting accumulated snow.
The summer months are characterized by long stretches of humid weather. Usually in the range from 23 °C (73 °F) to 31 °C (88 °F), daytime temperatures occasionally surpass 35 °C (95 °F) accompanied by high humidity making it feel oppressive during these brief periods of hot weather. Spring and autumn are transitional seasons with generally mild or cool temperatures with alternating dry and wet periods.
Precipitation is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year, but summer is usually the wettest season, the bulk falling during thunderstorms. There can be periods of dry weather, but drought-like conditions are rare. The average yearly precipitation is about 831 mm (32.7 in), with an average annual snowfall of about 122 cm (48 in). Toronto experiences an average of 2,066 sunshine hours, or 45% of daylight hours, varying between a low of 28% in December to 60% in July