Reflections on a warm and dry January

The CanSIPS model calls for near- to slightly above-average temperatures for February

The CFS weather model calls for near-average precipitation in February on the Prairies — outside of southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, that is.

I don’t know about you, but the first month of 2021 seemed to go by in a blink; maybe it had to do with all the warm weather. Unless you literally stayed inside for all of January there was no way you couldn’t conclude it was a warm month. Even the cold weather that moved in near the end of the month couldn’t put much of a dent into the near-record heat.

Every location I checked across the agricultural Prairies saw well-above-average temperatures in January. The warmest absolute temperatures occurred in Alberta, but the warmest temperatures compared to average were found across Manitoba and in the Peace region of Alberta. Typically, when we see really warm winter temperatures it tends to be dry, and this January was no exception as all three Prairie provinces reported well-below-average amounts.

Let’s begin our look in Alberta, where mean daily temperatures in January ranged from -4.3 C in Calgary to -8.4 C in the Peace River region. While Calgary had the absolute warmest reading, it was only 2.8 C above average — which is still well-above average, but compared with other locations it was actually the cold spot. Edmonton came in about 5 C above average, but Peace River was the warmest location right across the Prairies, with a mean monthly temperature 6.5 C above the long-term average. Precipitation across most of Alberta was light to almost non-existent, ranging from around one millimetre in the Calgary region to around six mm in the Peace River region.

Moving eastward into Saskatchewan, the well-above-average temperatures continued. The mean monthly temperature in Saskatoon came in right around -11 C, a good 4.5 C above the long-term average, while Regina saw a mean monthly temperature of -9.5 C, about 5 C above average. Precipitation was light, with both centres reporting between seven and eight mm, or about 50 per cent of average.

Finally, in Manitoba, absolute temperatures may have been a little cooler but compared to average it was a very warm month. The “cold” spot was the Brandon region, which recorded a mean monthly temperature of -11 C, a good 5.5 C above average. Both Dauphin and Winnipeg saw mean monthly temperatures right around -10 C, about 5.3 C above the long-term average for Dauphin and about 6 C above average for Winnipeg. Just like in Alberta and Saskatchewan, precipitation was below average, ranging from about five mm in the Winnipeg region to about 10 mm in the Dauphin region.

Overall, it was a very warm and dry start to 2021 and now the big question is whether the current cool-down will continue into February — or will the warm weather continue leading to what could be one of the warmest winters on record?

Predictions

Let’s start the weather outlook by looking at the almanacs. The Old Farmer’s Almanac calls for near-average temperatures along with well-above-average precipitation in February followed by slightly warmer-than-average temperatures and near-average precipitation in March. The Canadian Farmers’ Almanac, which is tougher to figure out, appears to have a bit of a glitch on its website as it isn’t showing the February long-range forecast, but it does show every other month. Its March forecast appears to call for near- to slightly below-average temperatures as it mentions fair several times with unseasonably cold temperatures at the end of the month. It looks like its precipitation forecast for March is near to above average, as it only mentions stormy conditions once — but as we all know, all it takes is one good March storm to dump above-average snowfall.

Moving on to the various weather models, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) three-month outlook for February, March and April calls for near-average temperatures across the eastern regions of the Prairies with below-average temperatures across the west. Precipitation is forecasted to be above average across all three Prairie provinces.

Next up is the CFS model, which calls for near- to above-average temperatures in the far-eastern and northern Prairies, cooling to below average over southern Alberta and extreme-southern Saskatchewan. It then shows above-average temperatures across the eastern half of the Prairies in March, with near- to below-average temperatures in the west. Precipitation is forecast to be above average across southern Alberta and Saskatchewan in February with near-average amounts elsewhere. The March forecast calls for near-average amounts across all areas, with extreme-eastern regions having the best chance of seeing above-average amounts.

The last model to look at is the CanSIPS model, which calls for near- to slightly above-average temperatures in February followed by above-average temperatures in the east and below-average in the west for March. Precipitation is expected to be near average for both months.

Finally, my forecast. It’s looking like February will see cooler-than-average temperatures with near- to below-average precipitation. March — well, that’s anyone’s guess, but my gut is calling for above-average temperatures along with below-average precipitation. Now, as usual, we will have to wait and see what unfolds this 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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