Well, if you think March was colder than average, you were right! In March 2013, temperatures across southern and central Manitoba averaged as much as 5 C below the long-term average. The last time we saw any month that was more than 2° below average was back in March of 2011. So we’ve had a two-year streak of seeing near- to above-average monthly temperatures.
It doesn’t stop there. Looking back to see the last time we had a month colder than 3° below average we have to go back to May 2009, or over four years. Looking back even further, to finally find a month that was as far below average as this March, we have to go back to October 2002 — that’s over 10 years ago!
The month started off not too bad, with high temperatures near the freezing mark, but those mild conditions brought some significant snow, which became a harbinger of things to come. As the middle of the month approached, temperatures plummeted. By the 24th, high temperatures were struggling to make it to the -10 C mark and overnight lows were dropping into the -25 to -30 C range. These cold conditions lasted for a full week before temperatures started to warm up a bit. But, like earlier in the month, the warmer temperatures came with more snow.
Arctic high pressure then settled in for the rest of the month. Under the strong spring sunshine, daytime highs began to warm and by March 23 or so, most places finally saw high temperatures near or just above the freezing mark. Since arctic high pressure was in place, and there was plenty of snow on the ground, once the sun went down, temperatures dropped and we routinely saw overnight lows in the -20 C range. There were even a few record overnight lows broken during this period.
While March was much colder than average, it wasn’t even close to being the coldest March ever. That distinction goes to March 1955, when the mean monthly temperature was 9 C colder than average.
As far as precipitation goes, snowfall was above average for the month, but the liquid content of that snowfall was right around average. This means, for our records, March saw near-average amounts of precipitation. Of course, with the couple of snowstorms that moved through, some regions did see above-average amounts.
Who called it?
Who forecast the near- to above-average amounts of precipitation and colder-than-average temperatures? Looking back it appears it was us here at the Co-operator! My forecast called for below-average temperatures with a good chance of seeing a mid-month cold snap. I also called for a couple of snowstorms that would result in above-average amounts of precipitation. All the other forecasts called for above-average temperatures and near-average amounts of precipitation. Now to be fair, I did create that forecast four days into March, so I guess I did have a bit of an advantage.
On to April: Will we break out of this cold snap or will April follow March with cold and wet conditions? According to Environment Canada, April is going to be cold and dry as it calls for pretty much all of Manitoba to see colder-than-average temperatures and below-average precipitation. The Old Farmer’s Almanac is a little more optimistic, with a call for near- to slightly above-average temperatures and near- to slightly below-average amounts of precipitation. The Canadian Farmers’ Almanac seems to follow the Old Farmer’s Almanac’s lead as it mentions showers and pleasant, fair weather with even the chance of a thunderstorm. To me, this sounds like near- to above-average temperatures along with near-average amounts of precipitation.
Finally, here at the Co-operator, I’m a little — OK, a lot less optimistic! The current mid-range weather models are not showing much in the way of warm air moving in and sticking around any time in the first 18 days of the month. Don’t get me wrong — it will be warming up, as it is April, after all. The average high temperature in April starts off around +2 C and by the end of the month it is around +14 C, so even if temperatures stay 4° below average, that would mean high temperatures by the middle of the month around 5 C and around 10 C by the end of the month.
The long-range precipitation forecast is always much tougher. April averages around 35 to 40 mm of precipitation and if we stay cold, this much rain or snow will seem like a lot. Cold weather usually means arctic high pressure, with the storm track remaining to our south. This year I don’t think it will play out this way and we’ll likely see near- to above-average amounts of precipitation in April.
I just can’t end this article with such depressing news. My positive spin is that for a fair number of years we’ve seen really nice March and April weather, then the weather tanks in May and June. Maybe this year will be the opposite, and once we get through this cold weather we’ll see summer move in early.