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World weather 2012 – Part I

The biggest worldwide story last March was the “summer-in-March” heat wave 
that brought record-setting temperatures to much of central and eastern North America

Usually around this time Environment Canada comes out with its top weather stories that occurred in Canada this past year. While I will do an article on this topic once it is released, I thought for now that I would take a look back at 2012 and summarize some of the major weather stories that took place around the world. Instead of trying to figure out which weather story is No. 1, No. 2, etc., I figured I would simply summarize key global weather events on a month-by-month basis.

So, let’s begin by looking way back to last January. While January 2012 brought unusually warm weather to much of central and eastern North America, most of Europe and Russia experienced well-below-average temperatures. In fact, the cold temperatures in Europe during January 2012 were estimated to have killed over 58 people due to exposure. These cold temperatures were not only confined to Europe and Russia, but they literally spilled over into Alaska, bringing what turned out to be one of the coldest Januarys on record for this region.

According to the Fairbanks weather office, several locations in Alaska set all-time records for the coldest January on record including Nome, Galena, and Bettles. Kotzebue recorded its second-coldest January ever, while Fairbanks recorded its fifth coldest January on record in 2012.

Moving on to February, the top global weather story was a little difficult to determine. The cold weather continued across Europe and Alaska with 200 people estimated to have died across Europe from the cold.

Over most of North America the big story was the lack of snow cover and warm temperatures. I think the major weather story for the month was the Category 3 tropical storm Giovanna that hit Madagascar on February 13, bringing five to 10 inches of rain along with wind speeds of 125-130 m.p.h. Fortunately, while it still created a large amount of damage, the eye of this storm missed the more heavily populated areas resulting in only 10 reported deaths.

Now on to March. Who can forget last March? The biggest weather story worldwide last March was the “Summer in March” heat wave that brought record-shattering temperatures to much of central and eastern North America for several weeks. After an extremely mild winter, temperatures ended up getting downright silly during the middle of the month as an unusual blocking pattern developed over North America.

High temperatures in southern Manitoba and parts of central Manitoba climbed into the upper teens by the middle of the month, with several locations recording temperatures in the low- to mid-20s on March 17 and 18, shattering the previous record highs.

Even the lows were amazingly warm, with overnight lows on March 19 actually being higher in some locations than the previously recorded daytime highs! These unusual conditions were also occurring over Eastern Canada and the northeastern U.S. The summer-in-March temperatures in these regions resulted in fruit crops coming into early bloom, only to be later damaged by the killing frosts that followed later in the month. Billions of dollars’ worth of fruit crops were lost. That said, it was still an amazing month weather-wise for our part of the world!

We’ll end up this article with a look at last April’s weather. Like February, April didn’t really have any major or dramatic weather events anywhere around the world. Record-warm temperatures continued to occur over North America, but this time they were confined mostly to the western U.S. and southwestern Canada. During April, at least 36 U.S. cities set or tied all-time record-high temperatures for the month. I think the biggest story was actually not really a weather event, but rather, the talk about the possibility of severe drought conditions developing over much of central and eastern North America during the upcoming months due to the warm spring weather and lack of snow cover and early-season rains.

Well, I’m nearly out of room, so I’ll continue this article in the upcoming issue(s) in January, but in the next issue we’ll do our usual look back at the previous month and then look ahead to see what the rest of the winter and early spring might have in store for us.

For now, I wish you the best of weather (and everything else) for 2013 – Happy New Year!

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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