Ayear ago at this time we had just gone through one of the nicest, warmest Marches in recent memory. Everyone was worried about the dry conditions and there was plenty of talk about possible drought conditions for the upcoming growing season. This year, our weather story has taken a full 180-degree turn. This March was far from warm and instead of worrying about drought the talk is all about flooding and too much water. So I guess the big question is – Will the remainder of the spring and summer match our cool start to the spring or, since we are opposite of last year’s weather, will we see a spring and summer opposite to what we saw last year?
Looking back at March I would say that for most of the Prairies we could sum up the weather as cold and dry. The month of March started off very cold with most regions seeing overnight lows in the -25 to -30 C range. Daytime highs were not much better, with most places struggling to make it to the -10 C mark. If we look at the Prairies as a whole, the city which recorded the coldest temperatures compared to its average was Edmonton, which was 6.4 C below average. Saskatoon was the next coldest, coming in 5.3 C below average. Closer to home, the Brandon region was the coldest, with a mean daily temperature during March of -10.9 C, which is 4.8 C below average. The Winnipeg region was the warm spot across the Prairies as this region came in around 2.5 C below the long-term average. So no matter which way you look at it, March 2011 was a cold month!
Precipitation amounts across the Prairies in March were a little more varied compared to the temperatures. The Edmonton region, which was the cold spot, saw average amounts of precipitation during the month. Farther south in the Calgary region, precipitation amounts came in slightly above average. As we move east, conditions dried out rapidly. In Saskatchewan, both Regina and Saskatoon were well below average, with both places seeing less than three millimetres of water-equivalent precipitation during the month. In our part of the Prairies conditions became wetter as you moved from west to east. The Brandon area saw near-average amounts of precipitation during March, while the Winnipeg region saw well-above-average amounts. Unfortunately the Environment Canada station in Dauphin is still not reporting data online so I have no data for this region.
WHO CALLED IT?
What does this cold start mean for the rest of spring and the early part of summer? Well, before we take a look at that, we need to look back to see which of the long-range forecasts were able to correctly predict March’s weather. Both theOld Farmer’s Almanacand theCanadian Farmers’ Almanachad called for near-to above-average temperatures, which did not materialize in Manitoba or anywhere across the Prairies. They also both predicted below-average amounts of precipitation, which were correct for Saskatchewan but not for Alberta or our region. Environment Canada was able to do a better job compared to the almanacs with a call for below-average temperatures and near-average amounts of precipitation over northern regions and above-average amounts in the extreme southern parts of the Prairies. Finally, yours truly had followed EC’s lead and also called for colder-than-average temperatures, but broke away from EC a little bit on precipitation with a general call for nearto below-average amounts. So depending on where you are, either Environment Canada had the best prediction or my forecast was the best.
Now looking ahead to April, May and June the OldFarmer’s Almanaccalls for much colder-than- average temperatures during April, which will slowly moderate to near average by June. Precipitation during the three months, according to them, will be near average. The Canadian Farmers’ Almanac appears to call for near-average temperatures during April and the early part of May. They then mention hot conditions during the second half of May and these warmer-than-average conditions look to spill into June. Their precipitation forecast looks to call for nearto above-average amounts as they mention unsettled conditions several times during this period and mention the chance for heavy thunderstorms late in April and again late in May.
Over at Environment Canada they are calling for below-average temperatures across all of the agricultural Prairies, with near-average temperatures over the far eastern parts of Manitoba. These colder-than-average temperatures are then expected to continue into May and June. The precipitation forecast from EC calls for below-average amounts over Alberta and southern Saskatchewan; near-average amounts over western Manitoba and central Saskatchewan; and above-average amounts over central and eastern Manitoba, along with northern parts of Saskatchewan.
Finally my forecast for the next three months is, honestly, pretty much a crapshoot. There is no definite long-range pattern on which to base a forecast and it looks like we are currently undergoing a shift in the weather pattern we saw controlling our weather over the last year or so. So, going simply on gut feeling and little things I see here and there, I feel spring will start off cold and wet, then start to transition into warm, dry conditions as we move toward June. Like I always say, only time will tell, but it sure would be nice to have perfect spring and summer weather this year. Exactly what kind of weather that is, I will leave to you.