While the final global temperatures for December and for 2020 are not yet in, that won’t stop us from looking back at our weather. We’ll begin with a quick look at December, then look back at the entire year, hitting some of the weather highs and lows of 2020.
It should not come as much of a surprise, but December 2020 was warm, and not only in Manitoba but right across the Prairies. Across agricultural Manitoba, December temperatures averaged about 5 C above the long-term average. Both the Winnipeg and Brandon regions did not see temperatures colder than -30 C and, in fact, it was so warm that many locations saw between 10 and 15 days with daytime highs above 0 C.
While this seems like it must be up there as one of the warmest Decembers on record, it was not even close. We only have to go back to 2015 to find a December that was 7 C above average, and to 1997, when temperatures were 9 C above average.
Precipitation in December was right around average across all three of the main reporting centres, thanks to a couple of storm systems that moved through just before the holidays. Overall, December saw well-above-average temperatures along with near- to maybe slightly below-average precipitation.
Who called it?
Looking back at the different forecasts, the winner would have to be the CFS model, along with my own forecast, which both called for well-above-average temperatures with near- to slightly above-average amounts of precipitation — close, but not perfect.
We don’t have the room for our usual quick look ahead, so instead of going into detail, the table below will give us a quick summary of the different forecasts for the end of January and February.
For the most part, the next month and a half is looking to continue on the warm side with not a lot of snowfall as February is statistically the driest month of the year. One fly in the ointment is that there are some changes currently taking place that could lead to a cold air outbreak later this month. The question is whether it will be short or long lived.
The year in review
OK, now on to our 2020 weather roundup. The year started off nice and warm, at least relatively, with January temperatures running 2 to 4 C above the long-term average. Average temperatures then prevailed until April when the bottom fell out with well-below-average temperatures dominating the month. April temperatures averaged between 2 and 4 C colder than average. The cold temperatures continued into the first half of May, making it cold and kind of miserable as we struggled through our first COVID-19 lockdown. The only bright side was that it was a fairly dry period, with only April seeing near- to slightly above-average precipitation.
The warmth that moved in during the second half of May continued right through into August, with temperatures coming in between 1 and 2 C above the long-term average. If you lived out west, summer started out wet with some extreme rainfall events in June bringing double to even triple the monthly average. Over eastern regions the dry weather continued, with below-average precipitation being recorded all summer long.
As fall rolled in, we saw temperatures cool back down to near average in the Dauphin region to slightly below average in and around Winnipeg. These colder-than-average temperatures deepened as we moved into October, where the monthly averages ended up being between 2 and 3.5 C below average. Warm weather built back in, in November, as temperatures moderated to above average and these mild temperatures intensified in December. Dry weather continued to prevail across all regions during this period.
When all the months were added up and averaged out, all three regions reported mean yearly temperatures for 2020 that were about 0.5 C above average — mild, but not remarkably so. The more interesting story was precipitation. The wet June in the Brandon region meant that its yearly total was right around average, but June was the only month that saw above-average precipitation. In the Dauphin region, while the summer saw near- to above-average precipitation, it was not enough to offset the dry months, resulting in below-average amounts for the year. Finally, in the Winnipeg region it was a very dry year. Every month reported below-average amounts, with the year coming in nearly 250 mm below the long-term average of 520 mm. The Winnipeg region has now seen 14 months in a row with below-average precipitation, and over the last three years, 32 of 36 months reported below-average amounts. While a lot can change over the next few months, as it only takes one big late-winter storm or a wet spring to restore water levels, we are going to have to eventually bring up the “D” word (drought) soon.