Call it an intermission from winter if you will, but don’t expect the warmer-than-usual temperatures to last — at least not in Manitoba.
Speaking at Farm Credit Canada’s Ag Outlook in Winnipeg last week, meteorologist Mark Robinson said that this year’s El Niño is a weak one.
“Right across the country we’re seeing warmer-than-normal temperatures,” Robinson said. “But in Manitoba it’s going to be a fairly average, fairly normal year.”
El Niños are tied to elongated stretches of warm water that develop in the Pacific Ocean near the equator, but this year, that stretch of warm water is located farther out into the Pacific than usual. The result? A softened effect that won’t have much impact on the Central Plains.
The current warm spell Manitoba is enjoying is the result of warm, moist air being drawn up from the Gulf of Mexico, said the Weather Network meteorologist.
The cold snap before that, which caught many Manitobans off guard, was the result of frigid air flowing out of Siberia and over the Arctic Circle.
“Instead of blaming that one on America, which I love to do, you can blame that one on Russia,” Robinson said.
Where the El Niño effect will have a positive impact is how long weather systems stay in one place. While the Canadian Prairies saw weeks of below-normal temperatures last winter, it’s unlikely that systems will stay in place for extended periods this winter, he said. Instead, weather systems will move across the continent fairly quickly.
”So that’s good news,” Robinson said.
The weak El Niño also means that the extreme effects, such as drought and flooding, seen with intense or so-called “super El Niños” shouldn’t be a problem next summer.
Next spring however, may be a bit of a disappointment for Manitoba producers.
“That spring pattern is all important right now,” he said. “And right now what we’re thinking is that it’s going to be a bit of a cold, wet spring.”
Or in other words, a longer winter is in the works.
“Winter may extend a little bit further, it may be a bit more mild now, but as we get into springtime things are going to get a little bit worse, a little closer to what we saw last year, with sort of that extended winter, and that’s right now what we’re looking at,” said the forecaster.
But a long winter doesn’t necessarily translate into a poor growing season, he added, pointing to years like 2010 as an example of when a cold spring evolved into a warm fall.
A long winter does mean that if Manitoba sees severe weather next year — such as hail, tornadoes, windstorms or intense thunderstorms — it will likely happen in late June or even early July.
But a lot can change over the next several months, Robinson added, noting a clearer picture of 2015’s spring weather will emerge by next March.
“I am a meteorologist, so that means I do get paid to get it wrong on a fairly regular basis,” he said laughing.