After October’s way-off forecast, what’s ahead?

A battle between cold and warm air is trying to take shape over this region

At the end of last month, I said, “I cannot believe another month has come and gone,” and I really can’t find different words now that October is over. I can’t speak for anyone on this, except myself, but it has been a tough last couple of months. For those of you who don’t know, or have not yet figured it out, my other job is being a teacher: Grade 8 math and Grade 7 wilderness education, at least this year. My journey into education has been an interesting one. I started going to the University of Winnipeg and getting a BA Honours degree with a major in geography, specializing in climatology. From there I worked on my master’s degree in climatology at the University of Manitoba. During that time, I taught several first-year courses and labs. After that, I moved on to the “real world” and figured out I really didn’t like doing research and publishing papers, and apparently you have to do that if you want to be a university professor. Oh well.

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A few years later I picked up some work teaching atmospheric science at the U of W, both in person and online. At this point I realized I do like teaching, so I went back to university and got my education degree. From there I began teaching high school and quickly transitioned into teaching Grade 9, then Grade 8.

OK, enough about my background. My point is, it has been a tough first two months of the school year, but I know I am not alone with the difficulties we are all facing. Sometimes I find that some of my frustrations are coming through in my writings. For example, last issue I really should not have got annoyed with someone — meteorologists or not — for thinking the snow was going to stick around. Now that I have all that off my shoulders, let’s take a quick look back at October, then see if the weather models can do a better job than they did last month with this November’s long-range weather outlook.

Looking back at October 2020, the best way to sum up the month, weather-wise, is “cold and dry.” All three main locations (Winnipeg, Brandon, Dauphin) reported much colder-than-average temperatures. Brandon was the cold spot, both actually and relatively, with a mean monthly temperature of 0.9 C, more than 3 C colder than its long-term average. Winnipeg and Dauphin both came in around 2.5 C colder than average, with Winnipeg’s mean monthly temperature for November coming in at 2.3 C and Dauphin coming in at 2.1 C.

Precipitation during the month at times seemed like it was above average, as light snow blanketed areas several times during the month. What we must remember is that snow-to-water ratios are typically in the 10:1 range, which means 10 cm of snow would equal one cm or 10 mm of rainfall. So, light dustings of two or three cm of snow do not end up being too much precipitation. When all the October rain and snow were added up, all three locations came in well below the long-term average. Amounts ranged from a low of around five mm in the Dauphin region to just over 10 mm in and around Winnipeg. This compares to an October average of between 30 and 35 mm for most locations across southern and central Manitoba.

Who called it?

Overall, October 2020 ended up being a much colder and drier month than average. Looking back at the different long-range forecasts, they were all wrong, and since I didn’t have the “guts” to go against all the wrong forecasts, my forecast was wrong too. The question is, which forecast was the closest? Well, both of the almanacs were way off. The Old Farmer’s Almanac called for a warmer- and wetter-than-average October, while the Canadian Farmers’ Almanac seemed to call for a cooler- (got that right) but wetter-than-average month.

Moving on to the weather models, NOAA, CFS and CanSIPS all got the dry part right but missed with a call for warmer-than-average temperatures, and as I already pointed out, I didn’t have the guts to go against all these forecasts. So I’m not sure who is the winner for October; I will leave it up to you to decide.

Now, on to the latest medium- to long-range forecasts. The Old Farmer’s Almanac calls for above- to well-above-average temperatures in November and December with near-average precipitation. The Canadian Farmers’ Almanac appears to call for near- to below-average temperatures along with near- to above-average precipitation. Moving on to the weather models, NOAA calls for near-average temperatures along with near- to above-average precipitation. The CanSIPS model calls for above-average temperatures in both months with near- to slightly above-average precipitation. The CFS model also calls for above-average temperatures for both November and December, but this model shows a higher probability of above-average precipitation in both months.

Finally, my attempt at figuring it out: I am leaning toward near-average temperatures along with above-average precipitation, as it looks like a battle between cold and warm air is trying to take shape across our region. The one problem with this type of setup is that either the warm or cold air could end up dominating, throwing my forecast out the window. Until next time, stay safe.

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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