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Holiday weather records in Manitoba

Winnipeg’s coldest holiday temperatures all date back to the 19th century

Last time we took a look at Christmas weather records from across the Prairies, but for this issue I thought we would zoom in on Manitoba and expand our look to New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. I first looked at this topic back in 2009, and then again a few years ago, so I figured it was time to re-examine the data to see if any records have changed. I did find some very cold Christmas temperatures for Brandon in 2012, but I believe they are suspect, as the second Brandon station was 10 C warmer and I could find no other stations that were even close to the values recorded. As always, if you find an error or have different values, please feel free to let me know and I will update the numbers in the new year.

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As most of you already know, I like to go back as far as records go for each of our three main stations (Dauphin, Brandon and Winnipeg). Some people might argue that the really old records don’t count as conditions have changed significantly around these places, but I say what the heck, we just want to know what the all-time records are for these locations — we aren’t doing climate research here!

Now, before we look at these values we need some kind of baseline to compare them to — that is, what are the average temperatures we should expect between December 24 and 26 along with the 31st and Jan. 1? The averages for all three stations were pretty close, so we can pretty much just go with one set of numbers, as shown in Table 1 below.

Those temperatures are not too bad, but remember, that’s the average, which means about half the time we are colder than that — and yes, half the time warmer!

In Table 2 further down I’ve placed all the records for these dates, along with the length of record for each station. The precipitation data is the amount of liquid we would get if the snow was melted. The liquid content of snowfall is usually around 10:1, which means that for every 10 centimetres of snow we would get one cm (or 10 mm) of liquid water, although snowfall ratios can be as high as 20:1.

From the data, we can see that the most significant snowfall event over Christmas and New Year’s occurred in Winnipeg on Boxing Day back in 1916, when over 30 cm of snow fell (another five cm fell on the 27th). Dauphin had the next biggest dump of snow with over 20 cm falling on New Year’s Eve back in 1907. Environment Canada’s database does show 50 cm of snow falling on Dauphin on the 31st back in 1994, but I am not sure how much I can trust that data. Most of the data for that month is missing and shows a high on that day of 0 C and a low of -30 C, which are kind of suspect. I also checked stations around Dauphin and none of them recorded any snow.

When we look at the temperature records a couple of things jump out at me. First of all, if you don’t like it getting colder than -40 C, then head to Dauphin, as none of the records there are below -40 C. The other thing that jumped out at me is that while Winnipeg has some extremely cold records over the holiday season, they are all very old records dating back to the 1870s and 1880s.

While this December appears to be shaping up a little on the cold side, I don’t think we’ll be challenging any of the weather records this holiday season. The weather pattern looks to remain fairly quiet over the next couple of weeks, with no major storms forecast to be in our neighbourhood. No matter what the weather does bring this year I hope everyone has the very best Christmas and I wish you all a very Happy New Year!

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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