Photo: Getty Images

Looking around, or rather, reading and listening around, it seems that the new year often begins by looking back at the previous year, and who am I to try and buck this trend? In the weather department, there are several areas I can look back upon; the question is whether I should begin from a global viewpoint and work toward a local one, or start locally and work toward a more global outlook. On top of that, I have already received a few inquires of what the long-range weather models are calling for over the next couple of months. After all, we are closing in on the middle of winter, and despite a bit of a cool start, it hasn’t been too bad. If we can continue the nice weather through January, there is only a month or so left – unless we see a repeat of last year’s dismally cold April.

After looking through all of the top weather stories from last year, both globally and locally, it appears there is enough information to cover at least a couple of articles. If I wait until I cover all of these stories before taking a look at the long-range forecasts, it won’t be until near the end of January, and that just won’t do. So, I’m going to do a very abbreviated monthly look back at the weather across the Prairies in December, then jump right into the latest long-range outlook for the remainder of January and February.

Starting in the west, Alberta saw warmer-than-average temperatures in December along with above-average amounts of precipitation. The warmest readings compared to average were over southern and central regions. The most precipitation was around Edmonton, which received nearly three times the average amount. In Saskatchewan and Manitoba, it was also a warmer-than-average December, with all major reporting stations coming in with mean monthly temperatures between 2 and 3 C above average. Precipitation across this region was light, with all locations reporting well-below-average amounts.

The longer view

Now, on to the long-range outlook. Environment Canada calls for above-average temperatures along with near-average amounts of precipitation. Best chances for above-average temperatures are over Alberta, with Manitoba seeing temperatures closer to average. The Old Farmer’s Almanac calls for a cold and snowy January followed by a warmer and still snowy February. The Canadian Farmers’ Almanac also appears to call for a cold and snowy January followed by a cold but drier February. NOAA’s forecast, at least extrapolating it northward, appears to be calling for well-above-average temperatures in January and above-average temperatures in February. Precipitation will be near average over the eastern Prairies, with a good chance of below-average amounts over western regions.

The CFS weather model calls for well-above-average temperatures for most of January with a short period of below-average temperatures late in the month and early in February. It then forecasts a return to above-average temperatures for the rest of February. The CFS model also calls for near-average amounts of precipitation right across the Prairies. The next weather model is the CanSIPS, which calls for above-average temperatures and near-average precipitation for both January and February across all three Prairie provinces.

Finally, my gut feelings… or forecast. I am going with the status quo, which means we will continue to see warmer-than-average temperatures, with the odd short-lived cold snap, along with near- to below-average amounts of precipitation. So, if you don’t like the cold, it looks like the rest of this winter might not be too bad, knock on wood.

The year that was

To wrap up this issue, I thought I’d list what I think are the top five global weather or climate stories of 2018. Most of the global weather stories lists I have reviewed are U.S. based, which, in my opinion, tends to give a bias to U.S. weather stories, so here is my more Canadian approach.

5. Wildfires: Both California and Greece experienced severe wildfires in 2018, with 126 confirmed deaths in the Greece fire in Attica and 86 deaths in the Camp Fire in California.

4. Heat waves: Record-breaking and near-record-breaking heat waves hit parts of East Asia, Pakistan, Eastern Canada, and the U.K. during 2018.

3. Fourth-hottest year on record globally: It looks like 2018 will go down as the fourth-hottest year on record globally since reliable record-keeping began in 1880. This marks the last four years as the hottest years on record.

2. Record rainfall: Catastrophic flooding in India and Japan killed at least 730 people. Hurricane Florence shattered U.S. all-time rainfall records.

1. Carbon dioxide emissions continue to increase globally: The IPCC report indicates we are running out of time to mitigate the inevitable impacts of global warming/climate change. Just look at the four top stories.

Daniel Bezte is the weather columnist for the Manitoba Co-operator. His column appeared in the January 10, 2019 issue.

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