Cold February, warm March?

Last month’s cold air brought little in the way of precipitation for Manitoba

Once the snow cover is off the fields, Manitoba’s odds of seeing above-average 
temperatures go up significantly.

Before jumping into the review of February’s weather and the latest medium- to long-range forecasts, I figured I should update you on the new weather station. Have you ever checked something out and then realized you totally missed something? Well, this is exactly what happened with me and my new weather station. I did more looking around and discovered that the Ambient weather stations are simply rebranded Ecowitt weather stations. Ecowitt is affiliated with a Chinese company called Fine Offset Electronics, a global producer of professionally manufactured weather-related products — or at least that is what its website says.

That means an Ecowitt station and an Ambient station are the same, but Ambient customizes the firmware to work within its cloud environment or ecosystem. If you do not really care about that part of the equation, then to buy the equivalent Ecowitt station through Amazon — assuming you have Prime for free shipping — would cost you about C$400. Add to that about $100 for the extra sensors I included, and it would still come in about $100 less than it cost me to buy it through Ambient. Time will tell whether the Ambient cloud service/ecosystem is worth the extra money. I will have more details about the setup and use of the weather station in the next issue.

Small price to pay

Now, on to our monthly look back, and oh, what a month it was. After a warm start to winter and a warm start to the month, the bottom fell out of the thermometer starting around Feb. 5 and things did not get better until around the 18th or 19th. While we saw one of the deepest and longest cold snaps of the last 20 to 30 years, most people I talked to seemed to take it in stride, with several comments simply stating that it was a small price to pay for the nice weather leading up to this. How quickly the warm weather came back also helped, with temperatures jumping back above the freezing mark by the last week of the month.

When all was said and done, February did come in well below the long-term average, though not nearly as cold as it would have been without the nice end to the month. At one point, temperatures across the Prairies were running about 10 to 12 C below average for the month, but by the end of the month these averages had moderated to around 5 to 9 C below average — cold, but not unheard-of cold.

What I found interesting, but not surprising given the extent of February’s cold snap, was just how uniform the mean monthly temperatures were across all three Prairie provinces. Except for Calgary, all main reporting centres reported temperatures that were between -17 C and -20 C. How did these values compare to the long-term averages in each province? Starting in Alberta, the Edmonton and Peace River regions came in about 7 C below average. In the south, even though Calgary was the warm spot in terms of absolute temperatures, it was the coldest compared to average, coming in at 9 C below average. In Saskatchewan, temperatures in both Saskatoon and Regina came in about 7 C below the long-term average. Manitoba was the warm spot compared to average, with temperatures coming in between 5 and 6 C below average. With the cold air came little in the way of precipitation, with all stations except Dauphin reporting below-average snowfall.

Predictions

Now, on to the weather outlooks for March and April, starting with the almanacs: the Old Farmer’s Almanac is calling for slightly above-average temperatures in March, followed by above-average temperatures in April. Both months are forecast to see near-average precipitation. The Canadian Farmers’ Almanac appears to call for near-average temperatures for most of March, with a cold end to the month. It seems like it will be a dry month as it only mentions “precipitation” once. April looks to see near-average temperatures as the term “fair” is mentioned several times. It looks like it might be a wet month, as it mentions unsettled and stormy weather over much of the last two weeks of April.

Next up are the computer models, starting with NOAA, which calls for near-average temperatures across the eastern Prairies with below average over far-western regions. Precipitation is also forecast to be near average over the eastern half, with above-average amounts over southwestern regions. Moving on to the CFS model, it calls for well-above-average temperatures over eastern regions, cooling to slightly above average over far-western regions in both March and April. Precipitation is forecast to be near to slightly below average for both months. The final model, Environment Canada’s CanSIPS model, also calls for above-average temperatures in the east with near to slightly below average in the west. Precipitation is forecast to be near to slightly below average in both months.

Lastly, my prediction: If we continue with the dry weather, most regions will see an early snowmelt due to low snow cover. Once the snow is off the fields, the odds of seeing above-average temperatures go up significantly. So, I am going to forecast above-average temperatures in March with near-average temperatures in April, with both months seeing below-average precipitation, as I do not see any signs of our region shifting out of the generally dry pattern we have been in lately.

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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