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Warm and dry or cold and snowy winter?

In the last issue I promised we would take a look at the long-range winter forecasts, but before we do that I have to take a moment to discuss Typhoon Haiyan, or rather, Super Typhoon Haiyan, that hit the Philippines last week.

First of all, just for clarification, a typhoon is the same thing as a hurricane. Typhoon is the name given to these storms when they form over the western Pacific Ocean. These tropical storm systems become typhoons or hurricanes when the sustained winds reach a speed of 74 miles per hour or 119 km/h. A typhoon becomes a super typhoon when sustained wind speeds hit 150 m.p.h. (241 km/h). In the Atlantic, this would be a Category 5 hurricane.

Initially, Super Typhoon Haiyan was reported as possibly being the strongest typhoon or hurricane to hit land ever, with a satellite estimated sustained wind speed of 195 m.p.h., five m.p.h. greater than that of Hurricane Camille, which hit the southern U.S. in 1969. Using satellite imagery to estimate the wind speed of these storms is not an exact science and reports are coming in that wind speeds were possibly only in the 160 m.p.h. range.

We’ll probably never know what the true wind speeds were for this typhoon and whether or not it was a record storm is irrelevant — what’s relevant is the fact that a very destructive storm hit the Philippines and has caused extensive damage, with early estimates reporting insured damages of as much as $2 billion, total economic damages approaching $14 billion, and preliminary estimates that as many as 10,000 may have lost their lives to this devastating storm.

To put what has happened in the Philippines into some kind of perspective, here is a partial quote from storm chaser Josh Morgerman of iCyclone.com who was in the city of Tacloban, directly hit by the storm. “First off, Tacloban City is devastated. The city is a horrid landscape of smashed buildings and completely defoliated trees, with widespread looting and unclaimed bodies decaying in the open air. The typhoon moved fast and didn’t last long — only a few hours — but it struck the city with absolutely terrifying ferocity… Meteorologically, Super Typhoon Haiyan was fascinating; from a human-interest standpoint, it was utterly ghastly. It’s been difficult to process.”

On that rather sad note, let’s lighten things up a bit and take a look at what the long-range forecasts are calling for in our part of the world this winter.

The winter ahead

While a number of different people and organizations come out with long-range winter forecasts, I think this year we’ll focus only on the forecasts I use to create our monthly weather outlooks: Environment Canada, the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the Canadian Farmers’ Almanac and, for fun, my own forecast.

Well, according to Environment Canada, this will be an average winter with respect to both temperature and precipitation, with only the northwestern part of agricultural Manitoba having the chance of seeing above-average amounts of snow. I think I could live with an average winter.

Over at the Old Farmer’s Almanac it calls for temperatures to start off on the cold side in December, then get downright bone-chilling cold in January, before moderating back to near-average values in February. Precipitation will be near average in December, but it looks like it could get pretty snowy in January and February, with a call for above- and then well-above-average amounts. I’m not too sure if I like this forecast!

The Canadian Farmers’ Almanac is always a tougher one to figure out as it simply tries to describe the weather and doesn’t actually state whether any month will see above-, below- or about-average conditions. So I’ll have to try to interpret its information and turn it into a general forecast. With this in mind, here’s what it looks like the Almanac calls for this winter: December is going to be warmer and wetter than average, with a good chance of a Christmas snowstorm. January will see near-average temperatures and precipitation. February will see colder-than-average temperatures with near-average amounts of snow. I could handle this type of winter, as I like outdoor winter activities and snow is a must for most of those.

Finally, here at the Co-operator, I’m calling for, let’s see, spin the wheel and… it looks like the winter will start off warmer and drier than average, then transition into a colder and wetter pattern. I put the odds on seeing a significant winter storm this year fairly high, simply because I think we are due to see one!

All in all, I hope everyone has a great winter this year and that the weather brings you exactly what you wish for.

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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