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La Niña developing in time for winter

Just how powerful the weather phenomenon will be this season is still up in the air

This map shows the total amount of precipitation that has fallen across the Prairies so far this fall as percentiles. So far it has been an interesting mixture of wet and dry conditions especially across Alberta. Southern Alberta, minus the foothills has been relatively dry while north-central regions extending northwestwards into the Peace River region has been wet to near-record values in some areas. Extreme northern regions have been the exact opposite with precipitation amounts ranging from low to extremely low.

I must begin with a bit of an apology. I had promised that we would be looking at trends in overnight temperatures across the Prairies this week, but we will not be able to cover it this time around. As I was working on the final crunching of the data I realized that I had made a mistake early on in my analysis, which had a significant impact on the final results. Combine this with an earlier-than-usual deadline and I just didn’t have the time to recrunch the numbers. I promise that we’ll look at this in an upcoming article.

For this article, I thought we could begin with a look at some weather gift ideas for the upcoming holiday season. For those of you interested in a full-blown weather station, the top choice once again is the Davis Vantage Vue system. Running between $500 and $700 this station has consistently ranked as one of the best. It pretty much measures everything you would want and is easy to install. While there are cheaper systems out there that do the same thing, I can say from experience, the Davis stations just keep on working year after year, with minimal maintenance. In fact, I could probably count on one hand the number of times my Davis station has caused me problems since I bought my first one back in 1998.

If a big-budget station is not what you are looking for then there are plenty of low-cost stations out there. Over the last five or so years there has been an explosion of these relatively low-cost stations. It has got to the point now that it is almost next to impossible to review all of them. Most of these stations have an indoor console to display the data and simply measure indoor/outdoor temperatures, humidity, and barometric pressure. They will often also give basic forecasts based on this data. Canadian Tire often has these systems on sale for some great prices. Just remember, just like most things in life, you get what you pay for. If you buy a weather station for $20 or $30 then don’t be surprised if it ends up only working for a couple of years before something goes wrong.

Finally, there are the traditional style of weather instruments ranging from simple rain gauges to flashy barometers. One of the most interesting ones that I came across is the Fischer Instruments 115.01 laboratory-grade outdoor thermometer with human hair hygrometer. It runs for around $100, looks nice, and is just a neat, accurate, conversational weather instrument. They claim that the use of human hair to measure humidity is one of the most accurate methods available. The hygrometer has a non-linear scale that allows you to get a more accurate measurement when humidity levels are low.

As I have said, there are literally hundreds of different weather instruments available, along with many different websites and stores that sell them. One website that has a very comprehensive listing of weather instruments, along with good to very good descriptions, is As an FYI, I have no affiliation with this website, it just carries the largest collection of weather hardware that I know of.

To finish up this issue, it is looking more and more certain that there will be a La Niña episode this winter across the tropical Pacific. The NOAA/NWS Climate Prediction Center has issued a La Niña advisory declaring that La Niña conditions are now in place and that there is a 65 to 75 per cent chance that these conditions will last throughout the upcoming winter. Currently, it looks like it will be a weak La Niña, much like we saw last winter.

La Niña means that there are colder-than-average sea surface temperatures across the eastern tropical Pacific. This setup historically results in a colder- and wetter-than-average winter across Western Canada and the northwestern U.S. If we use last year, which also had a weak La Niña as a comparison, the winter ended up being a mixed bag. December was very cold, January relatively mild, and February mild in the central and northern regions while southern regions were colder than average. Precipitation over central and northern regions was near to slightly below average, while southern regions saw above-average amounts.

I will keep an eye on just how strong this current La Niña becomes over the next month or so and give everyone an update when I revisit the winter forecast in early December.

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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