After a bitterly cold February right across the Prairies, I think most people were hoping March would turn out a little bit better, and I guess that’s what happened: March was a little bit better, but not much.
Looking back at the temperatures for March across all three Prairie provinces I found that compared to average, temperatures were consistently cold. Manitoba and Alberta saw mean monthly temperatures that were about 2.5 C colder than average, while Saskatchewan saw temperatures about 1.5 C below average. Looking at absolute temperatures, southwestern and south-central Manitoba were the cold spots, with mean monthly temperatures between -8 and -8.5 C. The warm spot was in southern Alberta, where the Calgary region recorded a mean monthly temperature of around -4 C.
The one bright spot amongst all this cold weather was the lack of any significant storm systems. Precipitation amounts across all regions were below average in March. The “wettest” region was found in western Alberta, between Calgary and Edmonton, along with extreme southeastern Manitoba. These regions reported near- to slightly above-average amounts of precipitation. The rest of the Prairies saw a dry month, with several locations reporting less than two millimetres of water-equivalent precipitation.
Who called it?
Overall, it was a colder- and drier-than-average March. Looking back at the March forecasts, it appears the CFS model did the best job, as it predicted a very cold start to the month with milder weather moving in during the final week. It also predicted a drier-than-average month.
Looking ahead, the CFS model sticks to its earlier prediction of a warmer-than-average April and May along with near- to above-average amounts of precipitation in April and near-average amounts in June. The CanSIPS weather model calls for a warm and dry April followed by near-average temperatures across the eastern Prairies in May and above-average temperatures over the west. Precipitation looks to be near average in April and May, with western areas possibly seeing above-average rainfall in May.
Moving to the almanacs, the Old Farmer’s Almanac calls for near-average temperatures in April and below-average temperatures in May. It also calls for slightly above-average amounts of precipitation in April and well-above-average amounts in May. The Canadian Farmers’ Almanac appears to have a very similar forecast of colder- and wetter-than-average conditions in both April and May as it mentions cold air, freezing conditions, rain, snow, and wet conditions several times.
Finally, my stab at long-range forecasting. I am leaning toward the CFS model, which is predicting warmer-than-average temperatures in April and May along with near- to slightly above-average amounts of precipitation. I think the long-range forecast will become much clearer by the middle of April as the overall weather pattern across North America undergoes a shift.
To wrap up this article, I wanted to do a quick look back at the extended winter of 2018-19. As we all know, official winter runs from December to February, but across the Prairies winter is really the period between November and March. Looking back at this extended-winter period, the easiest way to sum it up is: cold. The warm December across the Prairies was not enough to offset the very cold February and relatively cold March. I added up all the numbers and the table below shows how winter temperatures worked out.
Coldest conditions for the winter were felt in Manitoba, while the warmest conditions were in Alberta, thanks in part to very mild temperatures in November and December. Precipitation across the Prairies during this period was near to below average across most regions, with no regions reporting well-above-average amounts, as shown in the map above on this page.
Daniel Bezte is the weather columnist for the Manitoba Co-operator. His article appeared in the April 4, 2019 issue.