Wednesday, 2 January 2013

#7 - Top Ten Weather Events of 2012 in the Winnipeg Area

An Out of Bounds Spring

     Spring was extremely early in many ways this year, all thanks to a record warm March which put an abrupt end to an already tame winter. Bugs, trees, plants, the ice-breakup and the fire season all got a head start that was weeks earlier than normal. 

     The fire season had already begun by late March and early April. Ditches, fields and forests were tinder dry thanks to little snowfall in the winter, and warm and windy conditions in March. These dry conditions, for the most part, continued until late May. This was despite the fact we were actually seeing near to above normal rainfall. This was thanks to persistent low dewpoints and high winds which rapidly dried up any rainfall. These dry conditions prompted some municipalities to issue fire bans as early as the first week of April. Back-country travel restrictions in southeastern and eastern Manitoba, more burn bans and the cancelation of burning permits followed in May when the fire danger was pushed to extreme.

Grass Fire in Winnipeg Apr 5, pic by CBC Manitoba

     By May 1, there had already been 50 fires reported across Manitoba. Some of these were grass fires within Winnipeg city limits, such as along Sturgeon Road on April 5 and in the Assiniboine Forest on April 26. Both were brought under control and there was no damage to property.

Anola fire damage, by Rana Bokhari
     Some of the most major fires in April were near Beausejour, Selkirk and Anola. The fire near Beausejour on April 6 was 1.6 km long at one point. Water bombers from Manitoba and Ontario were present to fight the blaze. There were no reports of property damage. In Selkirk, a fire that was brought under control earlier in the day on April 28 reignited later in the afternoon. The fire spread to an auto scrap yard causing significant damage. On the same day, near Anola, a fire raged out of control and travelled several kilometres, burning 1 home. Firefighters spent hours trying to put it out. Unfortunately, 4 fires in the Anola area that weekend burnt in total 3 homes and a few out-buildings (such as barns).

     In mid May, two much larger fires were sparked in southeastern Manitoba; one in the RM of Stuartburn east/southeast of Vita and another in the RM of Piney. They both lasted about a week. They were very difficult to battle due to hot, windy and dry weather. In addition, winds were not only strong, but they were variable, changing direction often. On top of that, the fires were hard to access for ground crews, and were spread all over the place. The RM of Piney declared a state of emergency on the 14th, the same day that over a dozen people were evacuated in the small village of Badger. They remained evacuees for 4 days, finally able to return home on the 18th. In total, several thousands of hectares burned in the RM of Stuartburn, while a few tens of thousands were burned in the RM of Piney. The smoke plumes from these fires were large enough to be clearly visible on visible satellite and also visible as a blob of precipitation on doppler radar. This radar imagery indicated that the tops of these smoke plumes reached over 15,000 feet.

Lake Winnipeg April 9, pic by Richard Romanow/CBC
     Now moving on to the early ice-breakup on the Manitoba lakes. There was already open water along the shores of Lake Winnipeg at the end of the first week of April. By mid month, the south basins of both Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipeg were largely ice-free making it the earliest ice-breakup in recent memory. According to 78 year old Robert Kristjanson in his interview with CBC Manitoba, in his lifetime, the ice breakup has never been this early. Kristjanson's family has been commercial fishing on Lake Winnipeg for more than 120 years. He mentioned that in a normal year people would still be ice fishing until mid April!

Plants sprouting April 5. Pic by Amazis Louka, sent to TWN
     Trees began budding and plants began sprouting a few weeks earlier than normal as well. Some trees already began showing seed pods and budding in late March and early April! For instance, my maple tree had already started showing seed pods in mid March, began budding on the first week of April and leaves began coming out in late April! That is all about 3 or 4 weeks earlier than usual. Many plants and flowers even began sprouting in early April. Lawns began greening up in April as well.

     It terms of stats, it was the 2nd warmest Spring on record since 1872 with an average mean temperature of 6.8°C; that's 3.4°C above the 1981-2010 normal!

Top 5 warmest Springs since 1872 (mean temperature):
  1.   1977       7.5°C
  2.   2012       6.8°C
  3.   2010       6.6°C
  4.   1987       6.3°C
  5.   1878       6.0°C
     However, April was just tied for 30th warmest and May tied for 52nd warmest. March, being the warmest on record, sealed the deal so to speak.

     Snowfall was quite absent this Spring. After March 8, only a trace of snow fell. Only a trace of snow fell in April, putting this April among only 21 other Aprils since 1872 to not have any accumulating snowfall.

This post contains information, photos or videos from the following sources:

CBC Manitoba
The Weather Network
Environment Canada Weatheroffice
CTV Winnipeg

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