After one of the coldest Februarys in a long time, most of us were hoping for a really nice March, and for most regions Mother Nature did not disappoint.
In fact, across the eastern Prairies, March ended up as much above average as February was below average. Let us dig into the weather stats and see just how warm and dry March actually was.
Starting in Alberta, it was a much warmer-than-average month, with mean monthly temperatures coming in between 3 and 4 C above average across southern and central regions with temperatures cooling to near average in the Peace River region.
Since Alberta faced the brunt of the cold air in February, these well-above-average temperatures were not able to make up for 8 to 9 C below-average temperatures experienced in that month. Mild weather in March is usually dry across Alberta, and this year was no exception, with southern and central regions seeing on average about five mm of water-equivalent precipitation. This is only about 25 per cent of the long-term average. Farther north, it was a little wetter, with Peace River seeing about 10 mm of water-equivalent precipitation or about 70 per cent of average.
Moving on to Saskatchewan, average temperatures were just as warm as they were across Alberta. Regina reported a mean monthly temperature that was about 4.5 C above average, while Saskatoon reported a temperature that was about 3.5 C above average. Precipitation was below average, with Regina reporting about 10 mm, which is around 50 per cent of average. Saskatoon was very dry with only 1.3 mm of water-equivalent precipitation reported, which is less than 10 per cent of average.
Finally, across Manitoba it was a very warm March. The hot spot both in actual temperature and compared to average was the Winnipeg region. Winnipeg reported a mean monthly temperature of -0.1 C which was a solid 5.7 C above average. Brandon was the next warmest coming in about 5 C above average, with the Dauphin region reporting a mean monthly temperature that was about 4 C warmer than average.
These temperatures basically made up for the cold February that saw readings that were between 5 and 6 C below average. Precipitation was below average in the Brandon and Winnipeg regions with Winnipeg reporting about 10 mm and Brandon reporting about seven mm. Precipitation was near average in Dauphin due to a couple of storm systems impacting that region during the month.
Overall, it was mostly a much warmer and drier-than-average month. Looking back at the different forecasts it looks like it was a three-way tie between the CFS, Environment Canada, and my own forecast. I do not remember the last time three different forecasts were correct.
All three called for above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation. If I had to pick just one, then it would be the CFS as it predicted the warmest weather to occur over the eastern Prairies with slightly cooler conditions as you went west. Now on to the April and May weather outlook. Will it stay warm and dry, or will we see a switch to colder and/or wetter conditions?
According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac both April and May look to be warm with temperatures averaging around 2 C above average. April is forecasted to see near-average precipitation with May coming in below average. The Canadian Farmers’ Almanac seems to be calling for near-average temperatures in April as it does not mention any cold weather, but it also does not mention warm or hot weather.
The near-average temperatures look to continue into the first half of May but then it talks about hot weather moving in during the second half of the month. As for precipitation, it seems to be leaning towards near to above average as it does mention unsettled conditions several times along with two periods of stormy weather, one in late April and again with the heat in late May.
Moving on to the different weather models. NOAA’s latest three-month forecast is calling for well-above-average temperatures over the eastern Prairies, cooling to near average as you move westwards – much like it was in March. Its precipitation forecast is calling for near-average amounts across all three Prairie provinces, at least across the southern regions.
The CFS model is calling for well-above-average temperatures in April, especially over the eastern half of the Prairies, cooling to near or even slightly below average in May. Precipitation in April is forecasted to be near average with above-average amounts in May. Fingers crossed on that one.
The next model is the CanSIPS. It is calling for above-average temperatures across Manitoba and extreme-southern Saskatchewan in April, transitioning to near and then below average as you move west and northwest into Alberta. May is forecasted to see above-average temperatures across the far-southern regions of all three Prairie provinces, cooling to below-average temperatures as you go northwards. Precipitation is forecasted to be below average in both months across southern regions with near-average amounts over central and northern regions.
Finally, my thoughts, with the early disappearance of the snowpack and little standing water, temperatures in April will likely be above average. I still do not see any strong signs in any of the medium-range weather models pointing towards a wetter pattern developing, so I am leaning towards a continuation of dry weather.
May’s forecast is a bit of a question mark. If I go with my gut, then I think we will see a continuation of the warm and dry weather. Personally, I am starting to worry about the drought conditions, so I hope my gut is wrong.