Record-breaking temperatures

Iknow some of you who faithfully follow my weather column are going to be upset, but I have to take a break from the explanation of what causes the North Atlantic Oscillation and focus this week instead on the monthly look back at the weather, then look ahead at what wonders the weather may hold in store for us yet!

I think it has become a bit of a cliché, but “unless you were living under a rock” (or Christmas break was just that good) I think everyone knew and recognized that January 2011 was one warm and dry month! When all the data were assessed, both Winnipeg and Brandon came in at a whopping 7.0 C above average for the month. You’d think this would be a record, but believe it or not, it wasn’t even close! January 2006 had a mean monthly temperature that was an incredible 10.4 C above average. Precipitation amounts continued to run below average, with both the Winnipeg and Brandon regions reporting well-below-average amounts of precipitation during January.

These incredibly mild temperatures got me thinking about a couple of things. First, imagine if we had a summer with temperatures this much above average. When we have a warm or hot summer we usually come in around 2 to 3 C above average. If we had a July that was 7 C above average that would mean we would see daytime highs averaging around 33 C, and overnight lows would rarely drop below 20 C, and we would have a mean monthly temperature of 26.5 C, which is warmer than the usual daytime high!

The second thing that I started to think about was whether we have seen record warm temperatures this winter. I started averaging out the temperatures for the last two months (January and December). Since both were fairly warm months I thought for sure we would have a record, but we didn’t. The December-to-January period in 2005-06 was warmer by a fair bit. This got me thinking: We have now seen seven months in a row with above-average temperatures. What if I start combining more months together? Maybe we’ll break a few temperature records. Little did I know just how many we would break!

I only had time to look at Winnipeg’s data, but with similar temperatures occurring across much of agricultural Manitoba I am pretty sure this is representative of most places. If we only look at the time period ending at the end of January, we only need to go back to the October-to-January time frame to break the first records. October 2011 to January 2012 recorded the warmest average daytime high since record-keeping began back in 1872. The September-to-January, August-to-January and July-to-January mean daytime highs were also all record breaking. This means the period starting in July and ending in January was the warmest period of summer, fall and early-winter weather we have ever seen across our region.

If we look at the mean monthly temperature records, which are the average temperatures between the daily highs and lows, then the periods of July to January and August to January saw the warmest mean temperatures ever. July 2011 to January 2012 had a mean monthly temperature of 6.2 C, which was a good 0.3 C above the 1931 record of 5.9 C.

Who called it?

OK, so it has been warm and dry: the big question (getting bigger every day) is, how long will this weather pattern continue? Before we look into this, we need to take a look back to see which forecaster came closest to predicting the warm, dry weather we saw during January. I think I’ll have to give myself the unbiased nod, with a call for near-average temperatures along with near- to below-average amounts of precipitation. Environment Canada comes in a close second with a call for near-average temperatures, along with near- to above-average amounts of precipitation. Both almanacs called for well-below-average temperatures!

What will February have in store for us this year? Will we see a continuation of the warm and dry weather? I think I have the advantage with this forecasting coming out late. With that said, here is what everyone is saying. Over at the almanacs, both the Old Farmer’s and the Canadian Farmers’ call for below-average temperatures for the month. Precipitation-wise, the Old Farmer’s Almanac calls for below-average amounts while the Canadian Farmers’ Almanac calls for above-average amounts.

The weather models that Environment Canada uses seem to be a little better tuned into our current weather pattern, as they call for above-average temperatures along with near- to above-average amounts of precipitation. Finally, here at the Co-operator, after a warm start to the month, I think we will see more average temperatures move in; this will then be followed by above-average temperatures, once again resulting in a month that will come in above average. In regards to precipitation, it continues to look dry, so I feel February will continue the pattern of the last seven months and we’ll see below-average amounts of snow and/or rain.

About the author

Co-operator contributor

Daniel Bezte

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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