Another season has come and gone across the Prairies and the main weather question on most people’s minds is, “Just what type of weather will we see this summer?” I’ve always said, if someone could be 75 per cent or more accurate with long-range forecasts, he or she would be rich. Most of the companies or entities that make long-range forecasts are not awash in money, and I know I’m not rich, but that won’t stop us from trying to figure out the weather. So as I go through the different forecasts, just keep this little fact in mind, take all the information presented and then make up your own mind. After all, most of you reading this have more weather knowledge than the vast majority of people.
Before I take a look ahead at what the weather models predict for the summer, it’s time to take a look back at what May was like and at what spring added up to. After a record-breaking cold April right across the Prairies, May did an abrupt about-face, with well-above-average temperatures experienced across all regions. In fact, temperatures were surprisingly uniform across all three Prairie provinces in May. The coldest spot was Edmonton, with a mean monthly temperature around 13.5 C, while both Winnipeg and Regina came in around 15 C. So, as you can see, there was only a 1.5 C range of temperatures across all three provinces, which is quite remarkable. Comparing the mean monthly temperatures to the long-term average for each of our major stations, we once again see values that are very uniform, with most stations falling within 3.1 to 3.6 C above the long-term average. The coldest spot compared to average was in Dauphin, at 3.1 C above average; the warm spot was Calgary, with a reading 4.3 C above average.
Precipitation during May was mostly below average, with southern and northern Alberta only seeing about half their long-term averages. The Edmonton region was a little wetter, but was still below average. In Saskatchewan, the Regina region also only saw about half the normal amount of rain, with the Saskatoon region seeing slightly below-average amounts. In Manitoba, due in part to some late-month thunderstorms, some regions saw near- to above-average amounts of rain, while the areas that missed out on these storms remained dry. The Brandon region saw about 50 per cent of average rainfall, while Dauphin reported about 75 per cent of average. In Winnipeg, a slow-moving thunderstorm brought heavy rains to most regions, which actually put the total for May slightly above average. Areas around Winnipeg, such as my place, missed out on this rainfall event and ended up seeing well-below-average rainfall in May.
Put all the numbers together for spring and it turns out that the warm May just wasn’t enough to overcome the very cold April and the cool March. Most stations reported a mean spring temperature that was between 1° and 2° below the long-term average. Precipitation was also below average right across the Prairies, with most stations reporting a precipitation deficit of between 20 and 40 mm. The only exception to this was in the Edmonton region, where higher-than-average amounts in March and April resulted in a spring total slightly higher than average.
Now, on to the long-range forecasts. Starting off with the almanacs, the Old Farmer’s Almanac calls for near-average temperatures this summer with above-average amounts of precipitation in June and August, and near-average amounts in July. The Canadian Farmers’ Almanac seems to call for a warm and wet June followed by hot July and August with near-average rainfall. Moving on to Environment Canada, its three-month forecast calls for above-average temperatures, with near- to below-average amounts of precipitation. The best chances of above-average temperatures are across the western Prairies, with extreme southern regions seeing the best chance of below-average amounts of precipitation.
The next weather models are American, the first being the CFS model, run by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction. It has been flip-flopping a fair bit over the last few weeks between a warmer-than-average summer and a slightly cooler-than-average one. It produces new model runs every day, with the latest run showing a warmer-than-average June and July followed by a cooler-than-average August. As for precipitation, its latest forecast calls for a wetter-than-average summer across the eastern Prairies and a dry summer across the west. Next in line is NOAA’s seasonal forecast. It’s being safe with a call for near-average temperatures and precipitation, with parts of western Alberta seeing a slightly warmer and drier-than-average summer.
Finally, my take on this whole weather forecasting thing. Based on the consistency of some of the weather models, combined with looking back at how other years similar to this one behaved, weather-wise, I am leaning toward a warmer-than-average summer. Precipitation is always the hardest thing to predict, so relying on my gut feeling, I think most areas will see dry conditions punctuated with periods of heavy rainfall, resulting in near-average amounts by the end of the summer. Now, as usual, it is time to see just what Mother Nature will dish up for us this year.Put all the numbers together for spring and it turns out that the warm May just wasn’t enough to overcome the very cold April and the cool March.