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Bitterly cold February weather

Manitoba got off easy this month compared to Saskatchewan and especially Alberta

The cold weather that we saw move in during the second half of January just didn’t want to budge in February, which means that February 2019 can be summed up with just one word: cold.

February was a bitterly cold month, not just in Manitoba, but literally right across the Prairies. The month began cold, the middle of the month was cold, and the month ended bitterly cold. In between, there was just more cold! Oh, we had the odd seasonable day here and there, but for the most part it was just plain cold. Along with the cold came snow — not big heavy snowfalls, but several measurable snowfalls that slowly added up over the month.

While I am writing this with a couple of days left in February, looking at the current forecast for the last few days of the month, I feel fairly confident the final numbers on the temperature for February won’t change much. That said, here are how all the weather numbers added up for the month. Did I mention it was cold in February? I’m talking really cold. To put things into perspective, the warm spot across the Prairies, compared to average, was Winnipeg. Winnipeg’s mean monthly temperature for February was right around -19 C, which is nearly 6 C below the long-term average. You have to go back to 2003 to find a February that was this cold. In western Manitoba it was even colder, with Brandon and Dauphin seeing mean monthly temperatures of around -22 and -21 C respectively. These temperatures came in over 8 C below average.

It may not have seemed like it, but Manitoba got off easy compared to Saskatchewan and Alberta. Both Regina and Saskatoon saw mean monthly temperatures in February that were around -23 C, a whopping 11 C below average! It was even colder in Alberta, both literally and compared to average, with mean monthly temperatures ranging from -19 C in Calgary to -25 C in the Peace River region. Compared to average, these temperatures are running at nearly 13 C lower.

While it was bitterly cold and these numbers might seem incredible, I didn’t find any record-breaking values. Temperatures during a few winters in the 1930s were really cold, with mean February values a good 3 to 4 C colder than this February’s.

Precipitation during the month was, for the most part, near to above average across the Prairies. In Manitoba, Winnipeg recorded about 13 mm of water-equivalent precipitation, about two mm below average. Dauphin reported about 14 mm, which is a little above average, while Brandon recorded nearly 23 mm, about 10 mm above average. In Saskatchewan, both Saskatoon and Regina recorded about 11 mm of water-equivalent precipitation, which is near to slightly above average. Across Alberta it was wetter, with amounts ranging from about 15 mm in the south and increasing to near 25 mm in the north. These values are about five to 10 mm above the long-term average.

Who called it?

So, overall it was a cold February with most places seeing near- to above-average amounts of precipitation. Looking back at the different forecasts it appears that both the Canadian Farmers’ Almanac and the CanSIP forecast model did the best job, with a call of below-average temperatures and near- to above-average amounts of precipitation. If I had to give the nod to just one, it would be CanSIP as it called for near-average snowfall across southern regions with above average in the north.

Now on to March and April’s forecast. Starting off with the two almanacs, the Old Farmer’s Almanac calls for a cold and snowy March followed by near-average temperatures in April, with slightly above-average amounts of precipitation. The Canadian Farmers’ Almanac appears to call for a continuation of below-average temperatures right through into April as it mentions cold and freezing conditions several times in both months. It also looks like March and April will see above-average amounts of precipitation, as it mentioned stormy and snowy weather nearly every week.

Moving on to Environment Canada, the latest run of the CanSIP model calls for colder-than-average temperatures in March with some moderation in April, but still below average. Precipitation will be above average in March with near- to below-average amounts in April.

The CFS weather model calls for a colder-than-average March, with well-below-average temperatures during the first half of the month, moderating to near- or even above-average temperatures by the end of the month. These warm temperatures are then expected to continue into April, with temperatures forecast to be well above average for the month. Its precipitation forecast calls for below-average amounts in March with near- to above-average amounts in April.

Last but not least, my gut feeling is fighting between the CanSIP forecast and the CFS. I want the CFS forecast to be the right one, but until I see a break in our current cold pattern I’ll have to lean toward the colder long-term outlook.

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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