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Warm start, but does a cold end to winter lie ahead?

Several longer-range weather models call for above-average temperatures in November

After enduring a short-lived but fairly intense early-fall heat wave across nearly all of Manitoba last week, maybe it is — or maybe it isn’t — an appropriate time to take our first in-depth look at the latest fall and winter forecasts for the Canadian Prairies.

Before we dig into the long-range forecasts I think I do have to take a quick look at last week’s heat wave. As predicted by the weather models, a strong ridge of high pressure built across central North America beginning Sept. 15. This high continued to build right up to the 17th before breaking down due to an approaching area of low pressure. The ridge, helped by the developing area of low pressure over western North America, pumped plenty of warm and very humid air all across Manitoba, with temperatures peaking on the 17th. According to Environment Canada, eight locations broke their daily high temperature records. Even more impressive than that, 22 locations broke records for their warmest overnight lows, thanks, in part, to the unusually high humidity levels. I don’t have room to list all of the records, but in the table here are a few of the most noteworthy ones.

One thing of note is, while the record highs were only broken by a few 10ths of a degree in most locations, record lows were shattered by several degrees at most locations.

Now on to our first look at the fall and winter forecasts. Starting off with the Old Farmer’s Almanac, it calls for a warmer-than-average fall and early winter, with precipitation starting off on the dry side in October and getting progressively wetter as we move toward December. For the January-to-March period it calls for below-average temperatures along with above-average snowfall. I am going to skip the Canadian Farmers’ Almanac because, well, it’s just really tough to pull out monthly generalities about the weather from its descriptive writings.

Next up is the Weather Network. It calls for near-average temperatures and precipitation this fall, with the best chances of above-average temperatures over Alberta and above-average precipitation in Manitoba. The winter is expected to be colder than average over Manitoba, near average across Saskatchewan, and warmer than average in Alberta. It didn’t mention winter precipitation.

Now for a look at the different weather models. The Canadian CanSIPS model calls for well-above-average temperatures across all regions from November to January, cool to near average in February and below average in March. Precipitation is forecast to be near average all winter, with the driest conditions over far western Alberta.

The CFS model calls for above-average temperatures in November, near to below average in December, then returning to above-average temperatures in January – especially in Alberta. These well-above-average temperatures are then forecast to build eastward in February and March. October is forecast to see above-average precipitation in Manitoba, with average amounts to our west. The November-to-March period is expected to see near-average amounts.

The last of the computer models comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the U.S. Its latest forecast calls for above-average temperatures from October to December, with the warmest temperatures expected in Alberta. Temperatures then fall to around average in the January-to-March period. NOAA forecasts above-average amounts of precipitation across southern regions in October and November, with near-average amounts in December and January, returning to above-average amounts in February and March.

Lastly, here is my humble attempt. Based on the latest trends I’ve seen in the large-scale weather patterns, combined with what the different weather models predict, I am leaning toward NOAA’s forecast. It looks like we will see above-average temperatures for the most part this fall and into the early part of winter, along with above-average precipitation. After that, it is really anyone’s guess, but I think NOAA’s forecast is safest, with near-average temperatures for the rest of the winter and near- to above-average snowfall.

Now, as usual, we’ll have to sit back and see just what will happen this time around.

About the author

Co-operator contributor

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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