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Record-setting warm spell continues

Another month has come and gone, and as for the winter of 2011-12, it seems like it was the winter that really never was. February, to no one’s surprise, came in well above average, making it the eighth month in a row that we’ve seen above-average temperatures.

Both the Brandon and Winnipeg regions had February temperatures that were well above average. Winnipeg had a mean monthly temperature of -10.1 C, which is 3.5 C above average. Brandon was the warm spot, with a mean monthly temperature of -8.6 C, 4.8 C above average. Both locations were also dry, with Winnipeg recording a mere 4.5 millimetres and Brandon just a bit more at 5.8 mm — both of which were about 10 mm below the long-term average. This now makes eight of the last nine months with below-average amounts of precipitation.

Looking back at February there were really no big weather stories, besides the warm weather, which in any other year would be a big weather story. Interestingly, neither Winnipeg nor Brandon recorded any temperatures colder than -30 C in February. In fact, looking back over the whole winter, Brandon only saw one day with temperatures colder than -30 C and Winnipeg, believe it or not, did not see any days with temperatures below -30 C! I’m not sure if this has ever happened before, but it is something I will look into.

Once I figured out this statistic, I decided to go back and look at the temperature records once again and start comparing the last several months, to see just how this year has stacked up against other years. From the view of the weather person, “winter” is described as the period from December to February. Looking at the values for Winnipeg, this winter turned out to have the warmest average daytime high for the period of 1938 to 2011, with a mean high temperature of -4.6 C. This just beats out the -4.6 C recorded in 1997. If we look further back, then 1877 turns out to have had the warmest winter by far, with a mean daytime high of -2.3 C.

Precipitation this winter did break an all-time record, at least in the Winnipeg region. Winnipeg recorded 19.5 mm during this three-month period. The previous all-time lowest amount of precipitation was 25.9 mm, recorded in 1983.

Since we have seen such a long period of warm weather I tried expanding the time frame I was looking at, and I discovered that in the periods from September to February, August to February, and July to February, all came in with all-time records for warmest average daytime highs, and the warmest mean overall temperatures. So this has truly been a historic warm spell we’ve been going through!

Who called it?

The question now is, will we see this warm weather continue into the spring, or will we see a cold, wet spring that seems to have become the norm over the last several years? Before we look at that, we have to see if any of our long-range forecasters were able to predict the warm, dry February weather. Well, it seems that the advantage I had going into February with a late forecast paid off, as I was the only one who forecast above-average temperatures along with below-average amounts of precipitation. Environment Canada came in a close second with a call for above-average temperatures and near-average amounts of precipitation. Both almanacs were way off, with calls for well-below-average temperatures.

Now, on to March’s forecast. Once again my publishing date and the calendar give me an advantage, and hopefully I can take advantage of it. Looking at the current medium-range models I am going to say our warm weather will continue through much of March and we will end up having another above-average month. Even though we have seen some precipitation to start the month, I think that overall we’ll continue to be dry. Environment Canada is calling for near- to above-average temperatures during March, along with near- to above-average amounts of precipitation. Over at the Old Farmer’s Almanac they are calling for well-below-average temperatures once again, along with below-average amounts of precipitation. The folks at the Canadian Farmers’ Almanac appear to call for near- to above-average temperatures and precipitation as they mention fair conditions several times, and cold conditions only once, but they use the word stormy three times. They also mention the chance of thunder late in the month, which would usually be associated with fairly mild conditions or a very strong storm system.

However March does turn out, I hope the weather is exactly what you need in your location.

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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