Thursday, 14 April 2016

March Brought Another Early Spring to Southern Manitoba

For the second year in a row and for the fourth time in the last seven years, March brought a very early spring to southern Manitoba.

The month started out cold with lows in the -20's on the first three days, but spring-like temperatures arrived just a couple days later and lasted the remainder of the month. In fact, after March 4 only four days failed to exceed the freezing mark in Winnipeg. In the end, the month averaged -2.0°C at Winnipeg Int'l Airport, 3.8°C above normal and the 12th warmest March on record since 1872.

Winnipeg on March 11
Temperatures early month were warmest where there was little to no snow cover. Extreme southwestern Manitoba and the Morden-Winkler area already reached double digit highs on March 5 and 6. After a brief cool down (which still featured warmer than normal temperatures), record warm temperatures spread throughout the remainder of southern Manitoba by March 10 and 11 with widespread double digit highs lasting until March 14. Winnipeg reached 12.2°C on March 12, breaking the old record of 9.7°C in 2012. A high of 13.1°C two days later narrowly missed the old record of 13.2°C set just last year. It was warmer to the south and west. Morden reached its highest temperature for so early in the year three times with record highs of 16.0°C on the 11th, 16.2°C on the 13th and 18.5°C on the 14th. The high of 18.5°C on the 14th broke the old record of 18.3°C set just last year. Prior to 2015, the old record for the day was 11.2°C in 2012. It is mind boggling to think a record could be broken by such a large margin two years in a row. This highlights how unusually early warm temperatures have been arriving in recent years.

In Brandon, four record highs were reached and one was tied during the warm spell. A high of 17.9°C on the 15th not only broke the daily record of 14.9°C in 2012 by a 3°C margin but was also the warmest temperature for so early in the year since 1890. Melita took top honours with a high of 20.5°C on March 14, the earliest high over 20°C on record in Manitoba. The previous earliest 20°C was on March 16, 2012 when several locations reached the low 20's.

Thanks to the warmth, everything was early this year in southern Manitoba. Migratory birds already arrived by early to mid March. Snow and ice melt were unusually early as well. The snow pack eroded from southwest to northeast with Brandon losing its snowpack by around March 10. Winnipeg's snow pack reached 0 cm by March 15, tied with 1995 and 2015 for 3rd earliest snow melt on record since 1955. River ice also disappeared by the end of March.

Comparing 2016 to 2013 around the same time in mid March in Winnipeg

The thunderstorm season also came to an early start. Isolated thunderstorm cells occurred late evening on March 7 in southeastern Manitoba and occurred as close to Winnipeg as Selkirk. Winnipeg's earliest recorded thunderstorm was on March 19, 2012, but no thunderstorms occurred in the city in March this year. Stronger thunderstorms pushed into southwestern Manitoba from North Dakota late evening on March 14 and overnight on March 15. Pea to dime size hail was reported in the Killarney area along with a decent lightning show. The thunderstorms were associated with a strong system moving up from the US. Heavy rains spread across the Red River Valley in the morning on March 15. Generally 15-20 mm of rain fell in Winnipeg for the day. 15.7 mm fell at the airport, breaking the old record of 11.4 mm in 1946 for the day. The heavy early season rains caused overland flooding because the ground was still frozen. A state of emergency was issued in one municipality southeast of Winnipeg due to flooding concerns. Fields were underwater.

The system which moved into Ontario pumped ample moisture westward back into Manitoba late March 16 into early March 17. Heavy snow spread from east to west. Generally 5-10 cm fell from Brandon eastward with 10-15 cm close to the Ontario border (14 cm in Pinawa). In Winnipeg, 8-10 cm fell. The snow was very wet and stuck onto anything it landed on making for a spectacular winter scene in the morning as seen in the photos below that I took.

Generally mild conditions continued through the remainder of the month with a couple more double digit days at the end of the month.

Similar to February, warm temperatures in March were increasingly extreme as you went westward and southward. Average temperatures and ranking for March are provided below:

Brandon MB ................. -0.6°C ....... 6th warmest
Regina SK ....................    0.3°C ....... 5th warmest
Calgary AB ..................    3.3°C ....... 3rd warmest
Grand Forks ND ..........    2.2°C ....... 2nd warmest
Fargo ND ....................    3.6°C ........ 3rd warmest

Some milestones were reached. In Regina, a high of 17.3°C on March 5 was the earliest high over 17°C on record since 1884. It broke the old record by two weeks (old record March 18, 1910). In addition, 5 record highs were broken during the month, including a 4-day streak of record highs from the 10th to 13th. In Bismarck ND, temperatures reached 24°C on March 6, the earliest it has been that warm on record. The warmth extended into the Yukon as well with Whitehorse reaching an all-time March high twice with highs of 12.7°C on the 29th and 16.8°C on the 31st. These broke the old all-time March high record of 11.7°C in 1979. The high of 16.8°C on the 31st was three weeks earlier than Whitehorse has seen before. It was so warm out west that there were reports of budding trees in late March and farmers seeding their fields in mid March in southern Alberta, a couple weeks earlier than ever seen before.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Mild February

It was a mild and snowy February overall in Winnipeg. Cold was lacking with only one cold spell from the 8th to 13th with temperatures slightly below normal. The monthly minimum of -27.9°C occurred on the 13th.

Mild conditions dominated the remainder of February. 6 days exceeded the freezing mark in Winnipeg, close to the normal of 5 days. It was warmer to the southwest however, where snowpack was thin to non-existent. Melita in southwestern Manitoba managed to reach 9°C on February 6 and 26.

Manitoba actually missed out on the most anomalously warm conditions which occurred in areas such as Alberta, Saskatchewan and North Dakota.

Hoar Frost south of Winkler on Feb 1, 2016. Little snow on the ground.

There was little to no snow on the ground from Melita, MB westward to Calgary, AB in February. Persistent warmth was the story in this area, especially in southern Alberta. After February 3rd, every single day exceeded the freezing mark in Calgary and this streak has continued into March. In addition, 7 days in February reached double digits with a monthly high of 16.9°C on February 26. There was also a lack of snow with not a single snowfall from February 2nd to 27th. With just 1.8 cm, it was the 5th least snowy February since 1885 in Calgary. Lethbridge, AB was even warmer in February with 15 days reaching double digits. Saskatchewan also received this extreme warmth. Only 11 days failed to exceed the freezing mark in Regina. The monthly high was 13.2°C on February 26, the second warmest temperature on record in February since 1884.

From east to west, here’s how February averaged and ranked across the southern Prairies:

February 2016 average and rank in major cities across the southern Prairies 

February 2016 average
Deviation from 1981-2010 normal
Winnipeg, MB
+ 2.4°C
Tied 22nd warmest
Brandon, MB
+ 4.3°C
7th warmest
Regina, SK
+ 7.6°C
4th warmest
Calgary, AB
+ 6.8°C
2nd warmest

 In North Dakota, the warmest conditions occurred in southwestern parts of the state. Bismarck reached a record 23°C on February 27, the warmest temperature ever recorded in North Dakota in February. The previous state record was 22°C in 1992.

Despite the warmth, some winter storms still occurred. Blizzard and blowing snow conditions occurred February 7 and 28. Both produced severely reduced visibility in the Red River Valley resulting in numerous highway closures. In addition, both welcomed the arrival of much colder conditions. 

The month finished off with two thundersnow events close to the US border. A lone lightning strike occurred northeast of Altona after midnight on February 23. More thundersnow occurred near Langdon, ND in the evening on February 28.

In total, there was 24.0 cm of snow in Winnipeg, 10 cm above normal and tied 33rd snowiest February since 1873.  It is a little hard to believe it was so snowy considering there really wasn't any major snowfalls. The greatest snowfall on February 27 only dumped about 5 cm. Frequent small snowfalls were to blame for the high monthly totals.

The Ice Show in Winnipeg was a new festival added in 2016

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

A Mild January Overall

January was a mixed-bag in terms of temperature in southern Manitoba. The month started off mild, but frigid conditions moved in mid month. Well above normal conditions returned late month. Overall, January was 1.8°C above normal at Winnipeg airport, tied 29th warmest since 1872.

Some fields were nearly bare in late January south of Winkler
Frigid conditions occurred from the 9th to 18th. Highs during the period averaged about -20°C and lows -28°C. These were the coldest conditions so far this winter, but thankfully they were short-lived. Warm conditions returned late month with record warmth at times in some locations. 3 days exceeded the freezing mark in Winnipeg; the 29th being the warmest at 3.3°C. No records were broken in Winnipeg. Brandon, on the other hand, reached a record 3.5°C on the 27th. The extended warmth melted much of what little snow there was on the ground in southwestern Manitoba and along the US border. Fields were left nearly bare in some locations, a rare sight in late January.

In terms of precipitation, it was a dry January overall. Meager snowfalls of 1-2 cm were common in the Winnipeg area, but major snowfalls were not. Just one ''major'' snowfall occurred: on January 27, around 7 cm of snow fell. Areas along the US border from Winkler to Melita saw even less snow in January with no more than 10 cm in some areas. Rain and freezing rain even occurred at times late month. Winnipeg saw some rain as well on January 27 and 29 but only less than 0.5 mm.

Friday, 5 February 2016

The #1 Weather Story of 2015 in the Winnipeg Area

#1 - Record-Breaking December Warmth Finishes Off 9th Warmest Year Since 1873

Remarkable warmth started December across southern Manitoba. 8 to 10 days in the first half of the month exceeded the freezing mark in Winnipeg, above the normal of 4 days for the month. 14-consecutive days from the 3rd to 16th never dropped below -9°C at Winnipeg airport, amazing when you consider this was close to the normal high. Temperatures reached 7°C downtown and 4°C at the airport on the 3rd, one of the warmest days of the month. The only record broken during the warm spell was on December 9 when a high of 5.6°C at the airport broke the old record of 5.1°C in 1990.

The warmth was most impressive where there was no snow cover. 3 to 7 cm of snow was leftover from November in the Winnipeg area and this limited temperature. Areas without snow cover southwest of the city and in southwestern Manitoba were much warmer. Many locations reached double digits and in some cases more than once. In Morden, four days exceeded 10°C, three of which were record highs. The high of 14.2°C on December 4 was the third warmest on record in December since 1904. Some thermometers reportedly reached 15°C, more typical of late September or early October. No snow was on the ground at the time. A similar milestone was reached in Brandon with a high of 11.1°C on the 4th, the third warmest temperature in December since 1890.

The first half of December (December 1 to 15) averaged -3.0°C at Winnipeg airport, the second warmest first half of December on record since 1872. The warmest was in 1913 with an average of -2.1°C. The month as a whole averaged -8.1°C, tied with 2011 for 9th warmest December since 1872.

A warm December was a fitting end to a warm year. 2015 averaged 4.2°C, the 9th warmest year on record since 1873. Highs averaged 10.1°C, tied 7th warmest. This was only the 9th year since 1873 to see highs averaging in the double digits and the 3rd in the last 10 years.