This February was much warmer than the last

The CanSIPS model predicts a colder-than-average March for the Prairies

You guessed it, it’s that time again, to look back at the previous month’s weather, then look ahead to see what the next couple of months might have in store. At this time of year, with spring just around the corner, the long-range forecast takes on a little more importance.

Let’s begin by looking back at temperatures. Across Alberta, February temperatures ranged from near average across central regions to almost 1.0 C above average across southern and northern regions. Across Saskatchewan, there was a little bit more of a difference in temperatures. Across its northern agricultural regions, temperatures were a little cooler than average, with a mean monthly temperature in Saskatoon coming in about 0.5 C below average. Farther south, in Regina, temperatures were milder, with that region coming in around 1.5 C above the long-term average. Moving into Manitoba, temperatures were right around average across its three reporting regions. While it was not as mild in February as it was in January across Manitoba and Saskatchewan, it was much warmer than January across Alberta.

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Compared against February 2019, this year’s February was way warmer. For those of you who have blanked last February from your memories, here is a reminder of just how cold it was. Across the eastern Prairies, last February saw temperatures around 6.0 C colder than average. Across central and western regions, last February was between 11 and 14 C colder than average! To put it another way, Calgary’s mean February temperature in 2019 was -19.0 C; this year it was -4.8 C. Overall this year, most regions saw temperatures that were near to slightly above average, so, compared to last February, this February was downright balmy!

Now, on to precipitation. February is the driest month of the year across the Prairies, and for Saskatchewan and Manitoba this played out. Both of those regions saw only a few millimetres of precipitation, well below the average of around 10-15 mm. Across Alberta it was a little wetter. The Edmonton and Peace regions received near- to slightly above-average amounts of precipitation, with Edmonton reporting about 15 mm and Peace River around 13 mm. Across the south, or at least around Calgary, amounts were well above average, with that region reporting nearly 20 mm of precipitation or about twice the long-term average for February.

Who called it?

Now, who did the best job of predicting these near- to slightly above-average temperatures with below-average precipitation over central and eastern regions, with near- to above-average amounts in the west? Looking back at the different forecasts I would have to give the win to… no one. None of the different medium- to long-range forecasts were able to come close. Most of the forecasts called for below-average temperatures and most forecasts also called for near- to above-average precipitation.

Now, the big question is, just how will the next month or two play out, weather-wise? Will we see a delayed start to spring, or will spring arrive early?

Starting off with the two almanacs, the Old Farmer’s Almanac calls for a miserable start to spring, with below-average temperatures in both March and April and above- to well-above-average amounts of precipitation. The Canadian Farmers’ Almanac appears to call for near- to below-average temperatures in March, along with above-average precipitation. Its March forecast mentions stormy or wet weather four times during the month. Its April forecast is a little tougher to figure out as it doesn’t really mention temperatures, but does refer to fair weather several times, so I will go with near-average temperatures and precipitation.

Next up are the different computer models. NOAA in the U.S. calls for near-average temperatures and precipitation for both March and April, with a small chance of slightly cooler-than-average temperatures in March across southern Saskatchewan. The CFS model, which has been doing a fairly decent job over the last several months, calls for well-above-average temperatures across eastern regions in March with slightly above-average temperatures in Saskatchewan, and near- to below-average temperatures in Alberta. This model also calls for near- to above-average amounts of precipitation in March. April’s forecast is for a continuation of above-average temperatures across Manitoba, near-average temperatures across Saskatchewan, and near- to below-average temperatures in Alberta. Precipitation amounts in April are forecast to be around average.

The CanSIPS model currently calls for a colder-than-average March right across the Prairies, with the coldest readings across western regions. Temperatures are forecast to moderate in April, with Manitoba to see slightly above-average temperatures and Saskatchewan and Alberta seeing near-average values. Precipitation looks to be near average in both months.

Last on the list of long-range forecasts is my forecast, which, as most of you know, is mostly based on my gut feeling, and sometimes just wishful thinking. For this forecast period, I am going to go with weather persistence — the idea that what we have seen over the last month or two will continue over the next month or two. This means near- to slightly above-average temperatures with a chance for eastern regions to see well-above-average temperatures due to low snow cover. Precipitation is always super difficult to predict, especially in March and April which can see some of the heaviest snowfalls of the year. That said, I am going to stick with the ongoing dry weather for central and eastern regions and near-average amounts over western regions.

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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