Monday, 18 February 2013

Blizzard Claims a Life; Calmer Weather Begins Tomorrow

     This long weekend was not the weekend for travel in Manitoba as a vigorous Alberta clipper connected to a Colorado Low in the United Sates ushered in a whole variety of weather conditions. On Sunday, relatively balmy temperatures allowed for freezing rain, freezing drizzle, ice pellets and snow grains in the Red River Valley and southeastern Manitoba. The worst of this was south of Winnipeg where freezing rain fell heavy enough to accumulate. Highways reportedly were turned into skating rinks. In addition, blustery south winds created drifting snow.

Massive drifts in Winnipeg Beach. Pic by @annhoogie
     Things then turned for the worst Sunday night as the centre of the low pressure system moved to the east. Cold air, snowfall and very strong winds were ushered behind the low Sunday evening. This continued throughout the overnight and Monday morning. Northwest winds were sustained between 40 and 50 km/h with gusts over 60 km/h at times. The strongest winds were in the southern Red River Valley with sustained winds of 60 to 70 and gusts as high as 80 km/h. These winds combined with newly falling snow created severe blowing snow and blizzard conditions throughout the Red River Valley for several hours. Total whiteout conditions were seen on highways outside Winnipeg. Black ice and snow drifts made travelling through the blowing snow even more challenging. As a result, most major highways were shut down for many hours including the Trans-Canada, highway 75, highway 16 and I-29 in North Dakota all the way to Grand Forks. Within Winnipeg, some motorists got stuck in drifts blowing onto some roadways. Snowfall ended late in the morning, but vicious winds continued to whip up the newly fallen snow through the afternoon.

     Hundreds of people were without power in the Windsor Park and St. James neighbourhoods of Winnipeg for part of Monday. In addition, the town of Île-des-Chênes south of Winnipeg also saw brief outages.

Absolute whiteout conditions in Emerson Monday
     Dozens of crashes were reported across southern Manitoba today, including a 10-vehicle pile-up west of Winnipeg near St. François Xavier Monday morning. No serious injuries were reported in that particular incident. In addition, many vehicles ended up in the ditch. A 54-year old motorist who got stranded in the ditch on Highway 210 west of Landmark was not so lucky. His body was found on the road about 50 metres away, and he was declared dead. RCMP are still not 100% certain what caused his death, but whiteout conditions were present at the time of the incident.

     As far as snowfall totals are concerned, it was a hard measure today thanks to all the blowing snow, but there were a few estimates. Highest amounts fell to the east and south of Winnipeg, with generally 10 to 15 cm reported. About 4 to 7 cm or so fell in Winnipeg. To some, it may have seemed like more but the blowing snow made it look like more. Some drifts are now as high as a metre in the RRV.

     This has been a snowy winter in Manitoba. About 124 cm of snow has fallen so far in Winnipeg since October, which is already about 7 cm more than what we normally get in an entire season (October to May).

     Winds are still strong this evening but they will be gradually winding down through the night with calmer conditions tomorrow. Temperatures will also be falling quite a bit tonight with lows in the mid to low minus twenties expected. We will struggle to exceed -20°C tomorrow afternoon. Wednesday will be similar with calm conditions, sunshine and cold temperatures only a few degrees warmer than Tuesday. Beyond that, the remainder of the week looks seasonal (normal lows are now about -17°C and normal highs around -7°C). Our next chance for some snow will be next weekend, however at this point it only looks like a few flurries and nothing that compares to what we experienced today.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Winter Storm to End the Long Weekend

     The tradition of stormy long weekends here in Manitoba continues. A strong Alberta Clipper is set to start moving into Manitoba tomorrow, and will continue to have an impact on our province on part of Monday. However, this system is particularly complex, which is making it difficult to determine exactly what will happen. Models differ widely in amounts, timing and precipitation types. It seems the only thing that models agree on right now is for very strong winds and blowing snow on Monday. In addition, almost all of Manitoba is expected to get some snow with this system due to how large the system may get. After looking at the models for a couple hours this morning, here's the best forecast I can provide right now: (I'll give updates throughout the weekend)

GFS model forecast for Sunday evening

     The southern Manitoba situation tomorrow morning and afternoon is complicated. What is certain is that we will be in the ''warm sector'' of the system for most of the day. Temperatures are expected to rise slightly above zero in southwestern Manitoba in the afternoon. Here in the RRV and southeastern Manitoba, highs between -2°C and 0°C are expected in general, and these highs will likely be reached late afternoon or early evening. Winds will be brisk out of the south or southeast. Light precipitation is expected on and off through the morning and afternoon throughout southern Manitoba, however timing and location of this is too uncertain to point out. It is important to note however that freezing rain and ice pellets are a possibility thanks to some above zero air above the surface. Although amounts are expected to remain light, it could certainly be enough to make travel quite slick in some areas. The best chance for this light freezing drizzle or rain will be in southwestern Manitoba and along the US Border. This threat will diminish later in the afternoon in southwestern Manitoba and here in eastern areas in the evening as colder air moves in. The heaviest precipitation tomorrow in the day will be along and north of the warm front, in other words generally in the Interlake, central, western and eastern Manitoba. Precipitation in those areas will remain as snow.

     The centre of the low pressure system is expected to move over southern Manitoba in the evening. Thus, light to even calm winds are expected in that timeframe (would be brief however). The cold front will quickly sweep across the area however, and at this point it is expected to reach Winnipeg by mid or late evening. Winds will strengthen dramatically behind this front, and snow will begin falling either as the front passes or a little before it passes (likely a couple hours before). Snow will continue through most of the night, and winds will continue to strengthen.

      This is where the most problematic part of the system begins. Winds are expected to be out of the northwest or north at about 40 to 50 km/h with gusts to 60 km/h in the RRV on Monday morning. This will create serious blowing snow in open areas, especially if we get a lot of new snow.

     At this point, it looks like snowfall will wind down in the morning, with just a few flurries in the  afternoon here and there. Total amounts are expected to be in the 5-10 cm range in Winnipeg, but higher amounts are definitely possible. Heaviest snow totals with this system right now are expected in central and eastern Manitoba and then into northwestern Ontario.

Temperatures will remain steady or fall slightly throughout the day on Monday. We will likely be waking up to temperatures around -10°C in Winnipeg on Monday morning, and then temperatures will likely remain steady in the mid minus teens through the day. Lows in the minus twenties are expected Tuesday morning.

     This is how I see this system right now. With the great uncertainty in the models, I wouldn't be surprised if things end up a little different. That's why I'll be updating later today, and of course through the day on Sunday.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Winter Storm Orko Just Scraped Manitoba; Snow Possible Wednesday

     The Colorado Low to our south and east (named winter storm Orko in the US) during the weekend produced some hefty snowfall amounts and blizzard conditions to some areas. 30-45 cm of snow fell in northeastern South Dakota, southeastern North Dakota and western Minnesota. This was accompanied by 50 km/h winds creating whiteout conditions. Some highways, including some major interstates, were shut down. This included a 500 km stretch of I-29 in South Dakota and North Dakota. Here's some snowfall amounts in some major cities, along with a map showing snowfall amounts, both courtesy of the NWS:

Moorhead, MN/Fargo, ND     As high as 25 cm
Grand Forks, ND                   10-13 cm
St. Cloud, MN                        17 cm
Duluth, MN                             17-20 cm
Minneapolis, MN                      6 cm

Courtesy of the NWS. (15 inches is approximately 38 cm)
     Based on this map, the Sprague region in the extreme southeast corner of Manitoba got about 5 cm or so yesterday and last night, which is pretty much what was expected. The snow did in fact not quite reach Winnipeg at all, with no snowfall reported yesterday. There were a few flurries overnight and early this morning, but they were not associated with Orko.

    Now with the forecast for southern Manitoba. Today, as you may have noticed already, is colder. This can be thanked to Orko which pulled down some colder air southwards. Highs will struggle to get much passed -10°C at Winnipeg airport this afternoon. However, sunshine returns today as drier air filters in from the north with this colder air clearing the moisture/cloud cover we had over the weekend. This cool down to more seasonal temperatures will be brief however. Mild Pacific air returns tomorrow with above normal temperatures. Highs in the high minus single digits are expected throughout southern Manitoba, but some areas may poke above the freezing mark locally, especially in the western RRV where a westerly downslope wind may help things warm up a little more there. It wont necessarily be very sunny tomorrow however.

     The mild weather continues Wednesday, but a clipper system moving from the northwest will bring in snowfall to Manitoba. However, even now, it is hard to pinpoint where the heaviest snowfall accumulations will fall because models are a little everywhere right now. GEM keeps the main snowfall along the Saskatchewan border with little to nothing in the RRV, while NAM brings in the heaviest snow in the RRV, southeastern Manitoba and the Interlake. I'm hoping things will be clearer tomorrow. I will be giving updates in the comment section of this post when they are available so please check in there from time to time. Heaviest hit areas could get as much as 10 cm with this clipper. Right now, I don't think freezing rain will be a concern with the clipper, but I'll see tomorrow.

     Behind the clipper, there will be a more pronounced cool down. We will return into the arctic air with below normal temperatures. However, at this point it doesn't look as cold as it was in January, with lows in the -20's and highs in the minus teens expected. Models hint at another clipper system Sunday or Monday, so we may get a brief warm up then with snowfall, but we will return into the cold next week. Right now, it looks like a cold second half to February with no major warmups to be seen yet.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Manitoba to Dodge a Bullet Tomorrow; Remaining Relatively Mild For Now

     The worst of the Colorado Low that I have been hinting at for a few days now looks to be mainly a miss to Manitoba tomorrow at this point. Only the extreme southeast tip of the province (Sprague region) is expected to receive a decent amount of snowfall and blowing snow. As much as 5 cm could potentially fall over that area tomorrow and tomorrow night. Winds sustained near 40 km/h will create widespread blowing snow as well. Just northwest of Sprague, areas around the Whiteshell, Steinbach and Emerson areas may pick up a few cm. West of this, snowfall is still likely tomorrow and tomorrow night, however it wont come from the Colorado Low necessarily.
     A seperate clipper system from the northwest will provide some light snow to western Manitoba and the Interlake, and possibly as far east as Winnipeg. Overall, not much snowfall is expected in Winnipeg at this point; perhaps a cm or two at most. Breezy north winds will cause drifting snow, especially in open areas, so travel will be treacherous nonetheless. I do recommend you all to check the comment section of this post tomorow morning, as the track of this system is still not 100% certain this evening. I will provide an update there if things change. Meanwhile, here's the snowfall amounts that the GEM Regional model is expecting with this Colorado Low:

     It is looking like a decent storm south of the border. Blizzard warnings have been issued by the NWS for much of South Dakota, northwest Nebraska and southeastern North Dakota while winter storm warnings are in effect in almost all of Minnesota. Heaviest snowfall accumulations are expected in southeastern North Dakota, north central Minnesota and northeastern South Dakota, with 15-30 cm expected in that zone. Winds between 50 and 70 km/h will create serious blizzard conditions. If you have travel plans down there, it is recommended that you reconsider them if possible. Even as close as Grand Forks, as much as 10-15 cm is expected with serious blowing snow.

     There will be a brief cool down (relative to today and tomorrow) behind the Colorado Low for Monday with highs likely not reaching -10°C in the afternoon. Brief is the main word here as temperatures will climb again for Tuesday and Wednesday with highs approaching 0°C (similar to today).

     The longer-range is quite uncertain at this point. Right now, the potential is there for more snowfall mid week (Wednesday or Thursday). Behind that system, some models bring us back in the deep freeze, but uncertainty lies in how cold it will get and how long it will last, therefore I will keep it just at that for now.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Another Bout of Snowfall Wednesday

     Based on Rob's and A Weather Moment Blogs, Cocorahs and my own measurement, a general 4-6 cm of snowfall fell over Winnipeg with yesterday's clipper:

     A general 2-8 cm fell across southern Manitoba.

     Another clipper is expected to move in tomorrow. This one will be earlier in the day than yesterday's with snowfall beginning in Winnipeg early in the morning, and in southwestern Manitoba overnight. In addition, it looks like the heaviest snowfall will fall further south than yesterday, with heaviest amounts generally south of the Trans Canada (6-9 cm). For Winnipeg specifically, models put us on the leading edge of the heaviest snow, therefore it's still not 100% certain how much we'll get. Personally, I'm going with something a little less than yesterday; about 2-4 cm for the city, but keep in mind that we may get a little more if the heaviest band sets up further north, or less if the heaviest band sets up further south. For Brandon, I'd expect 5-8 cm. Here's what the GEM Regional model is expecting in terms of snowfall tomorrow (you can really see what I mean by Winnipeg being on the leading edge of the heavier stuff):

     Snow will begin to let up in Winnipeg by late afternoon or early evening.

     As opposed to yesterday afternoon, winds will be less of an issue tomorrow for Winnipeg. Blowing snow will therefore not be a major hazard, but there will likely still be some drifting snow out in open areas outside the city with the little wind there will be. Strongest winds (20 to 30 km/h) look to be in southwestern Manitoba tomorrow where drifting snow will be a bigger issue for areas south of Brandon. However, thankfully winds wont be strong enough for blowing snow.

     Warmer weather will make its appearance to end this week, into this weekend. More snowfall will be a possibility during the weekend, but it's a little too early to confirm this so stay tuned. There may be a brief cool down to start next week, but any cool down will be brief with general above normal temperatures for most of next week. As what we would come to expect, models are getting confident that a more significant cool down will take place in a week and a half or so.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

More Snow

     Today will be mostly cloudy, calm and cold with highs just over -20°C. A clipper system that I mentioned yesterday will move over southeastern Saskatchewan and southwestern Manitoba today bringing a couple cm to Melita and Virden regions. We shouldn't see much, if anything at all in Winnipeg today.

     Another clipper system will move into the province tomorrow. This one will bring much of southern Manitoba some accumulating snow, along with strong winds. Snow is expected to begin near noon or early afternoon in Winnipeg; earlier the further west you go. The heaviest axis of snowfall is expected to move down from the northwest, affecting Swan River to Brandon to Gimli to Winnipeg, Morden and Sprague. As much as 4-7 cm will be possible by Tuesday morning in this heaviest axis of snowfall. Strong winds of around 30 km/h and gusting to 40 or 50 km/h will create drifting and blowing snow, especially in open areas. This will cause trecherous road conditions, and travel will be a challenge in some areas. The following is a map showing the snowfall accumulations expected by the GEM Regional model by midnight tomorrow. Add a cm or two to these amounts in southeastern Manitoba however, because we'll be seeing some snow until overnight in those areas.

     Another clipper system is expected for Wednesday. At this point, another 4-8 cm looks possible across southern Manitoba including Winnipeg.

     Temperatures throughout this week will be fairly reasonable for this time of year, especially the further west you go. The bubble of cold arctic air will slowly be retreating back up north, but it will be a slow progression. As a result, it will be much milder closer to the Saskatchewan border than in the Winnipeg area on some days this week. Winnipeg will likely remain quite seasonal with highs between -6°C and -15°C.

     No major cold outbreaks in the foreseeable future, which is good news if you do need a break from the cold. However, this does not mean we're done with the cold for the rest of the winter. Some models do show signs of getting cold again in about 2 weeks.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

My Release of Winnipeg's 1981-2010 Normals


*The 1981-2010 climate normals for Winnipeg can be viewed by following this link.*



     In terms of how the normals have changed since the last period of normals (1971-2000), there are some striking differences. In the last decade, the month of January warmed by 1.4 degrees, while the month of May actually cooled down by 0.6 degrees. Only three months, May, June and October saw a cool down, May seeing the biggest cool down. This comes with little surprise considering that we have not had a top 30 warmest May since 1991, whereas 4 years in the 21st century (2002/04/08/09) were among the top 20 coldest Mays.

     Overall, for the whole year, the normal temperature has risen by 0.3 degrees to 2.9°C.

    December is now just as warm as February. This is the first time that this has happened. September has also rivalled May in terms of temperature.

      We average more precipitation as well. In the 1971-2000 normals, normal yearly rainfall was 415.6 mm and snowfall 110.6 cm. When it comes to snowfall, December and May have seen the biggest jumps. December now averages 4.3 cm more snowfall and May's average more than tripled, going from 0.8 cm to 2.6 cm. This can be attributed to the colder temperatures May has seen in recent years, namely 2002 and 2004 which both saw more than 20 cm of snowfall during the month.

     Reflecting the warmer normal temperatures in the winter, the normal number of -20°C and colder days in a full year has taken a nosedive. We now average only 53 days a year with a temperature of -20°C and colder; 5 days less than in the previous normals. This follows a trend of less cold days in Winnipeg in the last 50 or so years.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Bye, Bye For Now January

January 2013 stats and rankings. Click to enlarge.

     January 2013 seemed brutally cold to many, but in reality it was more typical than exceptional. Temperatures were near normal leaning towards a tad below normal thanks to a cold second half. In fact, the month was virtually divided into two; the first half was actually very mild with 3 days of above-zero temperatures and a few nights that never got below -10°C. The first 16 days averaged -12.0°C, about 4 degrees above normal.

     The last 15 days of the month were much less forgiving and a reminder of how cold it can get here in the winter. With temperatures averaging -21.6°C, it was about 5 degrees below normal for the period. Temperatures dipped below -30°C on 6 days late month, marking the first -30°C readings in Winnipeg since February 2011. Up to January 20th, we had gone 694 consecutive days without hitting -30°C, the second longest streak on record in the city (since 1872) and the longest on record at Winnipeg's airport (since 1938). The longest streak in the city was a 714-day streak from Feb 15, 1930 to Jan 29, 1932.

     In addition, breezy conditions brought nasty wind chills into the minus forties. Wind chill warnings were issued by Environment Canada on 5 days. School buses were forced to cancel services on some days due to the brutal wind chills.

     The colder weather was perfect for Winnipeg's many winter favourites such as the river trail which featured, for the first time, a pop-up restaurant on top of the ice. This was in sharp contrast to last winter when mild weather was abundant and ice was not.

     The month was snowier than normal. With just over 40 cm of snowfall, it was the 20th snowiest January on record since 1873 and 16 cm above normal. By month's end, snow depth sat at 40 cm in the city, double the normal of 20 cm. That makes it the 15th deepest snow depth at month's end (Jan 31) since records began for month's end snow depth in 1941. Since October, there has been 115.2 cm of snowfall in the city, already almost an entire season's worth.

     There were 3 major snowfalls, on the 11-12th, 18th-19 and 24-25th, each dumping between 8 and 14 cm. The main story was the wind associated with this snowfall however. The main event was on the 11th-12th when a blizzard swept through the Red River Valley associated with a Colorado Low:

     The 10th (a day before the blizzard on the 11th) had started with a beautiful sunrise; a harbinger of what was to come the next day (''red sky at night sailors delight; red sky at morning sailors take warning''). Drizzle the next night (heading into the 11th) had slickened up roads causing some schools and school buses to be cancelled in rural areas. Later in the day, winds between 50 to 60 km/h and gusts over 70 km/h combined with moderate snowfall to create near zero-visibility for several hours in the afternoon and evening, especially in rural areas. A large number of highways were shut down including the Trans-Canada and Yellowhead highways. Between 10 and 15 cm of snow fell over Winnipeg by the next morning, while higher amounts of 15 to 25 cm fell to the southeast of the city including Steinbach. The high winds carved out massive drifts, some a metre deep. Meanwhile, open areas were swept clean. This made it difficult to get accurate snow measurements. (video in Winnipeg, video from rural areas: vid 1, vid 2)

     High winds also created severe blowing snow on the 19th and 24th over southern Manitoba. Cemeteries in Winnipeg were shut down to the public on the 19th due to the amount of snow on the roads.

Jan 19 severe blowing snow in Emerson