Monday, 1 April 2013

A brrr-filled March

     It was a March to forget across the eastern Prairies (if you've had enough of winter of course). Winter prevailed through the entire month with consistently colder than normal temperatures and a few major snowstorms and blizzards. This proved to be difficult to accept after experiencing summer in March in 2012.

     In Winnipeg, the month averaged a staggering 13 degrees colder than March 2012, with an average mean of -10.9°C. That makes it the coldest since 2002. However, it was 'only' tied for 33rd coldest, mainly because the late 1800's had featured many mind-bogglingly frigid Marches; some of which were more than 4 degrees colder than this past March.

     However, it was colder out west. Brandon just narrowly escaped a top 10 coldest March, finishing with an average mean of -13.4°C, the 11th coldest March on record (records go back to 1890) and coldest since 1970. That's a whopping 7.2 degrees colder than their 1981-2010 normal of -6.2°C! To put that into perspective, March 2012 was 7.6 degrees ABOVE normal in the Wheat City, equally as extreme. Not very often that we see such a large swing in just 1 year!

     Back in Winnipeg, it only reached the freezing mark twice, tying with 3 other years for 3rd least. Normal is 16 days. In addition, the monthly maximum was a measly 2.3°C on March 28, the 6th coldest March maximum temperature on record (see the following table). Normal maximum is 9.9°C.

     The high of 2.3°C on March 28 ended a 76-day streak from January 11 to March 27 without reaching the freezing mark, the 20th longest streak of its kind since 1872. The top 10 longest streaks can be viewed here.

     Of course, cold wasn't the only story. All you had to do was look out the window to know what I mean by it being a snowy March, and well, winter in general!

     36.4 cm of snow fell on Winnipeg throughout the month, mainly due to storms on March 4 and 18/19 which each dumped 10-20 cm on the city. In addition, winds during the March 18/19 storm created blizzard conditions in the Red River Valley making it look more like January. I wont go in much detail on these storms or else this post would be too long. If you wish to look back on the storms you can follow the links on the dates at the beginning of this paragraph.

     It was the snowiest March since 1979 in Winnipeg, but only the 22nd snowiest; the most was an incredible 76.2 cm in 1904. Much higher amounts fell south and west of the city, with monthly totals over 50 cm in some places. Brandon recorded 48.4 cm, the highest March snowfall since 1970 when 53.1 cm fell. In Miami, southwest of Winnipeg, a jaw-dropping 78.1 cm was recorded. This was largely thanks to a 56 cm dump at the beginning of the month. As a result of these hefty snowfall totals, snow depth reached between 50 and 80 cm all across southern Manitoba by mid month. In Brandon, snow depth reached 77 cm on March 18 and 19, the deepest snow pack in March since 2007 when a depth of 87 cm was measured.

     In Winnipeg, snow depth peaked at 58 cm on the 18th and 19th, the deepest snow pack in March since the infamous March 1966 blizzard, after which a 69 cm depth was measured. The deepest ever for the month was an 85 cm depth in 1956.

     By averaging all the daily snow depth measurements in March in Winnipeg, we get an average depth of 48 cm. That's the 3rd deepest average snow depth on record for the month, with records going back to 1955. Normal monthly average is 14 cm.

     Snow depth was still 40 cm at month's end. If you thought that this is rare, you would be correct. This is only the 8th year since 1941 that we still had at least a foot (30 cm) of snow on the ground on March 31. In fact, it's more normal to have only a trace or no snow at all on the ground. 44% of the 70 years of snow depth data have had a trace or less of snow on the ground, versus only 11% having over 30 cm. Normal depth on March 31 is 5 cm.

     Now, for the very last statistic I have for you! And it's because of this statistic that many are worried about flooding this spring. Since October, 160.2 cm of snow has fallen in Winnipeg making this October 1 to March 31 period the 13th snowiest on record. That's approximately 57 cm above the normal of about 103 cm.

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