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Before I jump into a review of the top weather stories from across Canada in 2018 I figured I should first take a quick look at what we experienced weather-wise across the Prairies last year.

Average or mean yearly temperatures across the Prairies in 2018 were remarkably similar, at least compared to the long-term average. The yearly average temperatures were all within 0.3 C of coming in around 1.0 C below average. Across Alberta, Calgary came in 0.7 C below average, Edmonton 0.8 C below and Peace River 1.1 C below. In Saskatchewan, Regina saw a mean yearly temperature that was 1.0 C below average, while Saskatoon was 0.9 C below. Manitoba was a tiny bit warmer, with Dauphin coming in at 0.9 C below average, Brandon at 0.7 C below, and Winnipeg at 0.4 C below.

Looking at little closer at the data, we find these colder-than-average temperatures were the result of a very cold early spring that saw mean monthly temperatures from February to April running from 3 to 6 C below average. We also saw a second cold period in September and October that saw monthly temperatures that were between 1 and 5 C below average. The warmest month compared to average was May, with temperatures running 3 to 4 C above average.

As for precipitation, it was a drier-than-average year across the Prairies as recorded at the major locations mentioned above, except for Edmonton. The driest region was Saskatchewan, which recorded only about 75 per cent of average. Manitoba was also dry, recording about 80 per cent of average. In Alberta, both Calgary and Peace River were drier than average, with amounts coming in at around 80 per cent of average. Edmonton, the one wet spot, recorded about 115 per cent of average precipitation for the year. Overall, I guess we would summarize 2018 across the Prairies as a little cooler and a little drier than average.

OK, now on to the list of top Canadian weather stories of 2018 as compiled by Environment Canada, with a little extra input from me. If you visit the Environment Canada website you can find the full list of stories along with a well-written preamble about our changing climate.

Western fires and smoke

After a cool spring that resulted in a slow start to the fire season, things began to heat up both literally and figuratively in May as record heat helped to dry things out and get the fire season going. By midsummer, states of emergency were declared in parts of B.C. with smoke from these western fires affecting areas all the way through to Ontario.

Record heat

While overall the Prairies saw below-average temperatures in 2018, we did, along with nearly all regions of Canada, see some truly record-breaking temperatures. The May heat wave continued into June and early July from Manitoba eastward. Record humidex values were recorded in eastern Ontario in early July and Atlantic Canada recorded its hottest July and August on record, while all-time record highs fell in parts of Saskatchewan and Alberta in early August.

Cold-hot-cold

After a record-breaking cold start to spring, temperatures did a 180° in May and June. The summer saw near- to above-average temperatures along with well-below-average precipitation across a large portion of the Prairies that shrivelled crops. Then, to add insult to injury, cold weather invaded in September and October, bringing unusually early and heavy snowfalls to a number of regions.

Cold, cold April

If you felt alone in just how cold it was last April, at least it might be easier to know that you were not alone. Well-below-average temperatures invaded a large portion of Canada with below-average readings recorded from Alberta right through to Quebec. If you thought we had it tough across the Prairies, while it was cold, it was for the most part, dry. The cold air kept the main storm track to our south and east, forcing two major storm systems through Ontario and Quebec bringing significant freezing rain.

F4 tornado

North America’s and possibly the world’s most violent tornado of 2018 hit south-central Manitoba on Aug. 3. The tornado, classified as an F4, devastated an area near Alonsa and Silver Ridge, destroying buildings, mobile homes and trailers and killing one individual as it cut a 20-minute, 800-m-wide swath. Interestingly, the last violent tornado was the F5 that hit Elie, Man. in 2007.

Daniel Bezte is the weather columnist for the Manitoba Co-operator. His article appeared in the Jan. 24, 2019 issue.

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