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March snowstorm bumps up snowpack

Compared to seasonal norms, Earth’s coldest spot last month was in northeastern Manitoba

Almost one year later to the day, southern and parts of central Manitoba in 2018 saw another significant early-spring snowstorm. There were two big differences between this year’s storm and last year’s. First, this year’s storm began with milder temperatures. These milder temperatures made for a heavier, wetter snowfall. Combine this with the second difference, lower wind speeds, and we didn’t get the huge drifting that some places saw last year. I haven’t been able to find the final official totals for this year’s storm, but the table below shows some of the unofficial totals for the 36-hour period ending on March 6.

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So, while it was a significant snowfall, it didn’t break any total snowstorm records, though many places did break records for the most snowfall recorded on March 5. Over the last week I listened to several farmers and different agricultural people arguing over whether we needed this snow. After listening to the different arguments, I think it all comes down to what kind of farming you are doing and what type of land/soil you have. In my area, where the soil has a lot of clay, most of the farmers would rather have not seen any additional snow. The quicker the fields dry, the better; it’s the May and June rains that are important. Other areas, where the soil is sandier and water quickly drains away, this extra moisture was fairly welcome. Another consideration is water retention; I know my small pond is at a record-low level coming into spring, and for the first time, I’m not sure if there will be enough meltwater run-off to fill the pond. There is still a lot of early spring left, so I think it is still a little early to start worrying about soil moisture issues (either too wet or too dry), quite yet.

Talking about soil: I just returned from my yearly school ski trip to Assessippi, and as I was driving back I saw the new sign by Newdale proclaiming it to be the home of the official soil of Manitoba – well done, Newdale. I didn’t have time to stop, but maybe on my summer trip to Riding Mountain I will make the detour and check it out!

On a different note, if you have been trying to contact me with questions or comments through email and I haven’t got back to you, I’m not ignoring you. There seems to be a problem with my [email protected] email account which is preventing me from getting some (the majority) of my emails. While I try to figure out what is going on, please feel free to use my other account: [email protected].

The greatest number of questions I have been asked over the last two to three weeks are about the long-range forecast for the rest of this spring. The current medium- to long-range forecast calls for mild weather for the next two weeks, followed by cooler-than-average temperatures for the end of March and lasting right through April. The models have been fairly persistent with this forecast, but there have been some hints over the last couple of model runs that this might change. I will keep a close eye on these forecasts and do a full overview in the next issue.

Cold spot, warm spells

With some of the February global temperatures coming in, Manitoba hit the top weather news. According to the data from University of Alabama in Huntsville, which calculates global temperatures of the lower eight km of the atmosphere from satellite data, compared to seasonal norms, the coldest spot on the globe in February was in northeastern Manitoba, near the Caribou River Park Reserve up at the Nunavut border. Temperatures there were 5.95 C (about 10.71 F) cooler than seasonal norms. Overall, the globe was still running warmer than average, with a mean global temperature that was 0.26 C above the 30-year average. The Northern Hemisphere was 0.46 C above average in February, while the Southern Hemisphere was 0.06 C above average. Across the tropics, temperatures were 0.26 C below average, which isn’t surprising given the cooler-than-average conditions created by the current La Niña episode occurring across the tropical Pacific.

Finally, an unprecedented warm spell across a large area of the Arctic in late February brought record-breaking temperatures as far north as the North Pole. Temperatures across northern Greenland were as high as +6 C, with above-zero values being recorded for as many as six days in a row. These warm temperatures contributed, in part, to record-low Arctic sea ice coverage in February. February averaged 13.95 million square km, which is the lowest monthly average recorded for February. This was 1.35 million square km below the 1981 to 2010 average and 160,000 square km below the previous record-low monthly average in 2017. So, while we struggled with below-average temperatures in February, the Arctic continues to see what seems to be an endless stream of above-average temperatures.

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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