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Upside-Down Winter

The Weather Vane is prepared by Daniel Bezte, a teacher by profession with a B. A. (Hon.) in geography, specializing in climatology, from the University of Winnipeg. Daniel has taught university-level classes in climate and weather and currently operates a computerized weather station at his home near Birds Hill Park, on 10 acres he plans to develop into a vegetable and fruit hobby farm.

Contact him with your questions and comments at [email protected]

Gee, last issue I talked about when we should normally expect spring to arrive, and what do you know, it arrives! Maybe this week I should talk about the best spring weather we have seen in the past; you never know what might happen.

Actually, Environment Canada was nice enough to do some of the work for me this week. I pointed out in the last issue that this week we would take a look ahead to see what weather Mother Nature might have in store for us this spring and early summer, and along with that I always like to take a look backward and tally up how the winter was.

If we take a look at the winter of 2009-10 from a big-picture point of view, I think Dr. Jeff Master summed it up perfectly when he named this the “upside-down winter.” From a North American point of view, that’s exactly what this winter was like. The United States recorded its coldest winter in 25 years and overall it was the 18th coldest ever recorded. The coldest reading (compared to long-term averages) was in the extreme south, where Texas had its fifth-coldest winter ever and Florida recorded its ninth.

Up here in Canada things were anything but cold this winter. Canada as a whole recorded its warmest winter ever. The only part of Canada that wasn’t above average was the extreme southern Prairies, especially southern Saskatchewan. I have included Environment Canada’s map of winter temperature anomalies across Canada. From this map you can really see just how much above average temperatures were, especially up north. When it was all added up, the country as a whole came in 4C above average, which beat out the 3.9C recorded in the winter of 2005-06.

Along with the mild winter weather came below-average amounts of precipitation across Canada. Check out manitobacooperator.cafor a map of the winter precipitation departure from normal across Canada. North-central and parts of northeastern Canada saw above-average amounts, while central Quebec and western Manitoba saw near-average amounts. Over the rest of the country, it was a dry winter. All in all this winter turned out to be a very typical El Nińo winter, warm and dry.


Now, the million-dollar question is, what does this mean for this spring and early-summer’s weather? Well, according to Environment Canada and pretty much every expert out there, there is no statistical correlation with winter conditions and what the summer will be like. Even if we end up having an El Nińo summer, they do not behave as predictably as the El Nińo winters. That said, here is what some of our long-range forecasters have to say about this spring and summer.

Starting off with Environment Canada, it calls for colder-than-average conditions for the March-to-May period over southern and central regions with near-average temperatures over the north. In the April-to-June time frame, E. C. warms up a little bit, showing all of agricultural Manitoba seeing near-average temperatures. It’s interesting that statistically, E. C. is only correct about 40-45 per cent of the time over southern regions for these forecasts.

Our next long-range forecaster is the Old Farmer’s Almanac. It seems to be echoing E. C. a little bit as it calls for very cold conditions this March (a little off so far), and below-average temperatures from April through to June. Along with the cold temperatures it calls for lots of precipitation. April will be a little above average while May and June will be very wet. I sure hope they are wrong and if last week’s forecast is any indication (the Old Farmer’s Almanac was calling for snow and very cold conditions from March 6 to 19) we should be in pretty good shape.

The Canadian Farmers’ Almanac, meanwhile, calls for what I can only describe as “fair” weather from April through to June. Reading the forecast for this period they used the word “fair” eight times, and it isn’t a long read. It also appears that we will see near-to above-average amounts of precipitation as they mention showers and a few unsettled and stormy periods with dangerous thunderstorms across the Prairies in late June.

Finally, here at the Co-operator, I’m the only one going in the opposite direction. I’m calling for warmer-than-average conditions to continue right through spring and into the summer. This doesn’t mean we won’t see any more cold weather; it’s just that the warm weather will win out most of the time. Along with the warm conditions I feel it’s going to be on the dry side. Some areas will see above-average rainfall but they will be isolated as the rain will come mostly from strong thunderstorms.

The reason I’m going with this forecast is that over the last 10-20 years, the years that started off warm tended to stay warm right through into the summer, so to heck with all the statistics from E. C. and the other experts out there – we are going to be warm. At least I sure hope so.

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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