Will we see a warm spring… or payback?

The historic warm spell that has now gone on since last July continued in March. Actually, it didn’t just continue in March — it might have peaked in intensity. If this March isn’t the peak in intensity for this prolonged warm spell, I’m getting a little nervous about just how hot things might get in the months to come!

March 2012 will go down in the record books as the warmest March ever recorded in these regions. You name the temperature record and you can pretty much bet it was broken during March. March saw the warmest average daytime high temperature, the warmest overall average temperature, the warmest single daytime high temperature ever, and the warmest overnight low temperature ever. The only record that wasn’t broken was the warmest average overnight low temperature. The previous two warmest Marches were 1910 and 1878.

The month of March started off around average, with daytime highs in the -5 to -10 C range and overnight lows bottoming out around -22 C. These “cold” conditions lasted for about a week before the heat was turned on and we experienced what’s been described as “summer in March” and as one of the most unusual periods of weather ever recorded. By March 11, high temperatures rose above the +10° C mark and remained basically above this value for an incredible 13 days in a row. Temperatures peaked on the 19th, with most locations in southern Manitoba seeing high temperatures that were in the low to mid-20s, which broke all-time record highs for the month in many locations. Temperatures then returned to more average values for the last week in the month, which, after all the warm weather, felt rather cold! But March didn’t disappoint in the end, with the last two days seeing temperatures jump back up to near-record values.

Precipitation during March reversed a long-standing trend of below-average amounts. For the first time since last September, Winnipeg recorded above-average amounts of precipitation. Brandon also saw slightly above-average amounts of precipitation for the first time since last June. Table 1 gives you a summary of March’s weather for Winnipeg and Brandon.

Winnipeg’s average high temperature of 7.6 C beat the previous record of 7.1 C set back in 1910. Winnipeg’s mean temperature of 1.9 C also beat the previous record of 1.6 C set way back in 1878. Brandon’s mean monthly temperature of 1.0 C came within 0.5 C of the all-time record set back in 1910. Overall, to put things into some kind of perspective, March 2012 averaged about 7 to 8 C above the long-term average.

Who called it?

So, which of the long-range forecasts was able to predict these record-setting warm March temperatures? It looks like it might be a toss-up between Environment Canada, which called for near- to above-average temperatures and precipitation, and the Canadian Farmers’ Almanac, which also called for above-average temperatures and precipitation amounts. I think I’ll have to the give the nod to the Canadian Farmers’ Almanac, since it also called for thunder late in March — which many places experienced, not just once, but twice!

The thing that seems to be on everyone’s mind is, just when are we going to have payback for all of these warm temperatures? According to Environment Canada, it will not be in April or May. It calls for above-average temperatures over pretty much all of agricultural Manitoba for the remainder of spring, and for below-average amounts of precipitation during this period.

Over at the Old Farmer’s Almanac they are still singing from the same songbook, calling for below-average temperatures and precipitation. The Canadian Farmers’ Almanac appears to call for near- to below-average temperatures with above-average amounts of precipitation. It mentions stormy and showery conditions several times in both April and May, along with the terms pleasant and cold a couple of times.

Finally, here at the Co-operator, I am calling for a return to more average temperatures during April and May, with only the occasional really warm period. Along with the average temperatures I also think we will see average to even slightly above-average amounts of precipitation. But the way this year is going, it won’t surprise me one bit if we end up seeing a continuation of this warm, dry weather.

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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