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A warm and dry December and January?

Outbreaks of arctic air on the Prairies last month centred mainly on Manitoba

After a cold and snowy October across the Prairies, a number of people were expecting much of the same in November. Depending on where you live, this kind of came true.

Starting in the west, Alberta dodged most of the cold air and actually lived up to what the long-range computer forecasts predicted: above-average temperatures. Both southern and central regions saw mean monthly temperatures that were nearly 2 C above the long-term average. Farther north in the Peace region, it was a little cool, with a mean monthly temperature about 1 C above average. The warm weather did come with a fair bit of precipitation, with all three regions reporting above-average amounts. The Edmonton region received the most, with just over 30 millimetres of water-equivalent precipitation, almost double its average of 17 mm.

Moving on to Saskatchewan, it experienced a few more outbreaks of cold arctic air that resulted in mean monthly temperatures that were cooler than Alberta’s. Both Regina and Saskatoon reported mean monthly temperatures in November that were about 1 C below the long-term average. Saskatoon ended the month with a near-average amount of precipitation, whereas Regina recorded a below-average amount.

Manitoba saw the core of the arctic air outbreaks in November, which resulted in well-below-average temperatures across all regions. The “warm” spot was in the Winnipeg region, with a mean monthly temperature of -7.7 C, about 3 C below average. Brandon recorded a mean monthly temperature of -8.9 C, a little more than 3 C below average. The Dauphin region was the cold spot, with a mean monthly temperature of -9.4 C, which was more than 4 C below average. Precipitation during the month varied from well below average in the Winnipeg region to near average at Brandon, to a little above average at Dauphin.

Overall, Alberta was warm and wet and Saskatchewan was a little cooler and drier than average, while Manitoba was definitely colder than average with near- to below-average amounts of precipitation.

Who called it?

With this mixed bag of weather conditions across the Prairies, it’s going to be tough for any of the previous long-range forecasts to get it right. Looking back at the different forecasts, I wasn’t surprised that no one was able to correctly forecast November’s weather. The closest forecast was probably my forecast, as I called for warmer-than-average temperatures in the west, falling to near- to below-average in the east. The precipitation forecast wasn’t as good, with a call of near- to slightly below-average amounts.

Looking ahead to December and January, let’s start with the two almanacs, as their forecasts don’t change from month to month. The Old Farmer’s Almanac calls for near- to slightly below-average temperatures in December along with above-average amounts of snow. January doesn’t look that great, with a call for well-below-average temperatures along with above-average snowfall. The Canadian Farmers’ Almanac calls for a cold and snowy December with several mentions of heavy snow and even a prediction of up to 30 cm of snow over Christmas. January looks to be a mixed bag of conditions as it mentions showers, snow, mild air, and bitterly cold air during the month.

Moving on to the computer-based weather models: Environment Canada calls for near- to slightly above-average temperatures in both December and January with a near-average amount of precipitation and the chance of above-average amounts across extreme southern regions. The CanSIPS long-range model, produced by the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis, calls for below-average temperatures in December, with above-average temperatures in January, especially over western and northern regions. The precipitation forecast calls for near-average amounts in both months. Moving on to the CFS model, it calls for well-above-average temperatures to move in around the middle of December, then stick around right through January. It also calls for near-average amounts of snow.

Finally, my forecast, which is usually based on what my gut tells me about all of the different forecasts. Currently, I am going with the CanSIPS and CFS models, which means near- to above-average temperatures in December thanks to a warm second half of the month, followed by a warmer-than-average January. Precipitation is always the toughest part; that’s why most forecasts lean toward average amounts. I see nothing pointing toward a change in our current pattern, which is keeping the big storms to our south. So, I will go with a forecast for below-average amounts of precipitation. Now we sit back and see just what Mother Nature will throw our way.

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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