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Are we looking at a warm, dry spring?

The snow cover so far across Western Canada won’t take as much sunlight to melt

The biggest weather news of the week, at least according to my local news sources, was AccuWeather’s spring weather prediction. So I figured maybe I should join in and take a look at what the different forecasters have called for this spring. After all, meteorological spring is only a couple of weeks away (March-April-May).

In what I think is a pretty bold move, AccuWeather predicted not just a warmer-than-average spring across Canada, but that we could see a spring in the top 10 or even top five warmest springs on record. Now, if you want to make a name for yourself in long-range weather forecasting, you need to go out on a limb now and then, because if and when you get those forecasts correct, everybody is impressed, at least for a little while.

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Looking at its overall spring forecast, it is calling for above-average temperatures for nearly all of Canada (1 to 2 C above average) with only the far northeastern regions seeing below-average temperatures. Western regions have the best chance of seeing well-above-average temperatures (over 2 C above average). Over our region we are solidly in the above-average area, with near-average temperatures expected over extreme northeastern parts of Manitoba. This prediction pretty much mirrors what we are currently seeing across Canada.

As far as precipitation goes, AccuWeather calls for below-average amounts to our west and east with near-average amounts across Manitoba. The only wet areas forecast are in the Atlantic provinces, much of northeastern Canada and in the southwestern Yukon.

Why are they confident enough to call for it to possibly be one of the warmest springs on record? I think it’s for the same reason I am leaning toward a warmer-than-average spring forecast. The first point is that El Niño, while weakening, will still be influencing our weather this spring, leading to a greater-than-average chance of milder weather. Secondly, so far this winter snow cover across Western Canada has been fairly light, which means it won’t take much to melt off the existing snowpack. Once the snow is gone, solar energy normally used to melt snow can go into heating the air, resulting in warmer-than-average temperatures. This is the wild card point, as it only takes one big storm to change this. Currently, the weather pattern we’ve been stuck in for a while now doesn’t lend itself to big storms.

Running low on ice

Kind of going along with the low snow cover is record-low sea ice coverage in the Arctic and low levels of ice cover across the Great Lakes. January’s Arctic ice coverage was just over one million square kilometres below the long-term average and was 90,000 square km lower than the previous record low. So far in February this trend is continuing, with ice coverage running over two standard deviations below the norm. What does this mean for our spring temperatures? Well, just like with snow, ice coverage cools the air by reflecting sunlight and by acting as a natural air conditioner. Low ice levels usually lead to earlier and quicker melts, resulting in a weaker and smaller pool of cold air sitting to our north. As for the Great Lakes, while they don’t directly influence our weather, less ice usually results in milder weather for that region, which can influence our weather.

Now that we have an understanding of what is going on with our weather leading into spring, here are what some of the other long-range forecasters are calling for. First, our two almanacs. The Old Farmer’s Almanac calls for a cool, wet March followed by near- to slightly above-average temperatures in April and May. Precipitation will be near average in April and below average in May. The Canadian Farmers’ Almanac, which is always tough to figure out, looks to be calling for near-average conditions in March, as it calls for fair conditions several times. April also looks to be “fair,” with possibly a warm end, as it calls for severe thunderstorms over eastern Manitoba from the 20th to 23rd. May looks to be a little more unsettled, with hot weather moving in during the last week of the month.

Over at Environment Canada it is calling for above-average temperatures all spring long, with near-average amounts of precipitation for most regions. Extreme western and northwestern parts of agricultural Manitoba could see above-average amounts. Looking at Environment Canada’s U.S. counterparts, the NOAA calls for above-average temperatures and below-average amounts of precipitation for all three spring months.

Last, but not least, my spring forecast: as I already stated above, I am leaning toward AccuWeather’s forecast, but I’m not as positive about the chance of seeing really warm temperatures as it is. All the pieces are in place so far for a really warm spring, but the big question is whether the mild air will win out over the colder air that is forecast to be in place to our northeast. As usual, only time will tell.

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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