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Cool, wet fall, warm, wet winter?

The computer models predict near- to above-average temperatures in December

As fall comes to an end across the Prairies some locations have already seen winter come and stay, while other regions are still waiting for winter snowpack to develop. Once again it is bad timing for writing the monthly weather summary as there are still a couple of days left in November. Normally, I can look at the short-term forecasts and come up with pretty reasonable numbers for the month, and with temperatures this isn’t a problem for this November. Precipitation can sometimes be a problem — and that’s the case this month, as there is potential for southern and western regions to see some measurable precipitation over the final couple of days of the month. Keeping that in mind, let’s look back at November’s weather and also take a look at the fall as a whole.

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After enduring a cold and wet October, with some areas seeing record October snowfalls, the big question going into November was whether the cold and snowy conditions would continue. Fortunately, they didn’t. Temperature-wise across southern and central Manitoba, you wouldn’t have called it warm, but it wasn’t cold either. Mean monthly temperatures ranged from right around average in the Dauphin and Brandon regions to about 1 C colder than average in the Winnipeg region. The big difference during the month, at least compared to October and November, was the amount of precipitation. All three regions saw either near-average to below-average amounts. The Dauphin area was the driest, seeing only 25 per cent of average amounts. Winnipeg reported about 50 per cent of average, while Brandon came in right around average. These values could change, depending on what happens with the late-month storm system that is forecast to move through North Dakota.

To sum up November’s weather across our region, it would be safe to say it was slightly colder than average, with near-average precipitation in the southwest and below-average amounts elsewhere.

Next, looking at the whole fall, temperatures were not as bad as most people are making them out to be. While it was a colder-than-average fall, all three locations reported mean fall temperatures that were within 0.3 and 0.5 C of average, ranking this fall as only slightly colder than average. Precipitation, on the other hand, was well above average for the most part, thanks to the record-breaking rainfalls that occurred across a large part of southern Manitoba in September, combined with the heavy wet snow and rain that fell in October. It didn’t matter how dry November turned out; it was going to be a wet fall, especially across the south. Winnipeg’s total fall precipitation was 207 mm, which was 94 mm above average. Brandon’s fall total was 255 mm, which was a whopping 162 mm above average. Dauphin was the odd one out, with only 116 mm of precipitation recorded this fall, which was right around its average. It missed the really heavy rains in September and only caught the edge of the heavy snow in October.

To sum up this fall’s weather I would have to say it was a slightly cooler-than-average fall, with southern regions seeing well-above-average amounts of precipitation and central regions seeing near-average amounts.

Who called it?

Now on to the fun part: who did the best job forecasting November’s weather, and what are the latest long-range forecasts for December and January? Looking back at the different long-range forecasts, it looks like the winner this time round was… everyone, except the Old Farmer’s and Canadian Farmers’ Almanac. The computer model-based forecasts all called for below-average temperatures in November along with near-average amounts of precipitation. While they didn’t get the forecast bang on, they did do a pretty darned good job. I don’t remember the last time this many long-range forecasts got it right. The big or million-dollar question now is, will the weather models be able to repeat their success in December and January?

Let’s start off with the two almanacs. The Old Farmer’s Almanac calls for a very warm and slightly wet December, followed by a cool and snowy January. The Canadian Farmers’ Almanac appears to call for a colder- and snowier-than-average December followed by a cold and dry January, with a chance of a big storm late in the month.

Next up are the computer weather models. The CFS model calls for a very warm December and a slightly above-average January. The model calls for near-average amounts of precipitation. The CanSIPS model calls for above-average temperatures in December followed by near-average temperatures in January. Like the CFS model, it calls for near-average amounts of precipitation. Next on the list is NOAA’s forecast, which predicts near-average temperatures for December and January, along with a chance of seeing above-average amounts of snow.

Finally, my interpretation of all of the different weather models: I have to agree it looks like December will see above-average temperatures. Precipitation is always the tough one to forecast, but I’ll go with my gut on this and forecast near- to slightly below-average amounts. January will see a bit of a cool-down, with temperatures coming in around average. Along with the cooler temperatures we will see more active weather, resulting in above-average snowfall. Now all we have to do is sit back and let Mother Nature make a fool out of all our different forecasts!

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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