December’s weather roundup

The current pattern favours below-average amounts of precipitation for January

With the ending of a year and the beginning of a new one, we traditionally look back at what was, then look ahead to see what the new year might have in store for us. From a weather point of view, there are a number of ways we can do this. I think we’ll begin with my usual look back at the previous month, then look ahead to what’s being forecast for the next couple of months. In the following issue, we’ll take a look back at the year as a whole, then try to look ahead to see what the upcoming year might have in store for us. Then we’ll look back at some of the biggest weather stories from across Canada and around the world.

Let’s dive right into our weather reminiscing with a December 2015 weather summary. Unless you were away during December, I think it was pretty obvious that it was a warmer-than-average month. After a nice warm fall, with temperatures averaging around 3 C above the long-term average, the big question on most people’s minds was whether the mild weather would continue into the winter. The answer to that question came early in the month, as mild air moved in, pushed daytime highs into the double digits in some places and, even with the weak winter sunshine, melted most of the snow cover. These above-freezing temperatures lasted until the 9th or 10th of the month, when slightly cooler air moved in, but even then, daytime highs were still only a few degrees below freezing.

What did come with the cooler air was some snow. By the 18th, most locations had received enough snow to pretty much ensure a white Christmas. A second storm system a few days before Christmas brought some additional snow, bringing the monthly snow amounts to near average. While the snow amounts were near average, the low moisture content of the snow meant that overall, precipitation amounts ended up being below average. This second storm also brought with it some colder but seasonable temperatures, with the last week of the month seeing near average temperatures, and even a few below-average readings thrown in for good measure.

When all of the numbers were added up it was indeed a very warm month. Usually we say a month was well above average when the mean monthly temperature was more than 2 C above average. December’s mean monthly temperatures at all three of our main locations were around 5 C above average. Precipitation was near average in the Brandon region and only slightly below average in the Winnipeg area. It was a fairly dry month around Dauphin, with that region recording only about seven mm, less than half the average.

Who called it?

When we look at the different December forecasts, it looks like both Environment Canada and I correctly predicted the above-average temperatures and below-average amounts of precipitation. If I had to give the nod to just one forecast, it would have to be to mine — not because it was me, but rather because I predicted a very warm and dry first half of the month followed by cooler (but near average) temperatures during the second half of month along with better chances of seeing snow. Hey, sometimes the dice just roll in your favour!

Now, let’s look ahead to see what January and February might have in store for us this year. According to Environment Canada, temperatures will continue to be above average in both January and February, but the probability is dropping down to about a 60 per cent chance. As for precipitation, it continues to call for below-average amounts. Over at the Old Farmer’s Almanac it calls for very cold temperatures in January along with below-average amounts of snow. Temperatures will then rebound to slightly above- average values in February, along with slightly above-average amounts of snow. The Canadian Farmers’ Almanac, always tough to figure out, seems to call for near to slightly below-average temperatures, as it doesn’t mention cold weather but does say chilly winds and blustery weather several times for January. It does appear to call for above-average amounts of snow as it mentions stormy weather/snow several times during the month. Its February forecast is almost a repeat of January, with several calls for stormy or blizzardy weather, but this time it mentions cold weather a couple of times, so I’m going with colder and snowier than average for the month.

Finally, here at the Co-operator, I have a slight advantage with the January forecast and it looks like we’ll see at least a week or two of below-average temperatures during the first half of the month. The weather models then lean back toward average or even above-average temperatures for the second half of the month, which would mean overall we should expect near to slightly below-average temperatures. Precipitation is always the tough part of a long-range forecast, but the current pattern favours below-average amounts of precipitation.

As for February, recent history seems to point to below-average values, and with such a nice December, most of us are thinking we’ll have to pay for it eventually. I’ll have to admit I’m on the fence with this one, so I’ll go with what I hope will happen: warmer than average with near- to below-average amounts of snow!

About the author

Co-operator contributor

Daniel Bezte is a teacher by profession with a BA (Hon.) in geography, specializing in climatology, from the U of W. He operates a computerized weather station near Birds Hill Park.

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