Thus far, winter has brought plenty of cold weather to the Prairies, particularly to Saskatchewan and Manitoba and snowfall has been a little less than normal. The forecast for the remainder of the winter could have some clues provided from the first part of winter.
Arctic air has been in place from late in the fall through the early winter nearly non-stop across northwest Canada and for more than half of the time has made itself known across the Prairies. Recent milder weather is likely to shift gears back to a cold weather regime during the coming days, but we see signs that a tug-of-war may develop later this month into February.
Long-range climate models seem to have fallen in love with a pattern featuring more cold weather for areas from northwest interior Canada southeastward through central Canada for February. This pattern would most likely allow for an ebb and flow of arctic air into the central and western Prairies while the Manitoba would tend to stay in very cold conditions for the majority of the time.
For the West, we would expect to see periods when the chinook sets in and sends temperatures jumping to above-normal levels for a few days. This warmth would most likely spread over the top of the arctic air across eastern Saskatchewan and Manitoba producing periodic snows.
The first portion of winter has already produced several episodes of this pattern and we don't see any signals that would indicate a major change in this pattern for the remainder of January and February. As for precipitation prospects, we would expect some chance that near- to above-normal amounts could fall for the Prairies for the remainder of the winter. That's what the climate models are forecasting, but we have to be cautious since the first portion of winter has actually seen a little less-than-normal precipitation.
Farmers would likely be happy to see some added snowfall to help bolster soil moisture levels for the spring planting season. There continues to be enough snow for most areas to protect over-wintering crops from the periods of very cold weather, but a little more would be beneficial from a moisture standpoint.
If the core of the cold weather decides to shift into central and eastern part of Canada for February, then we would likely see a much milder and fairly dry pattern across the Prairies. It is very possible that this will be what happens later in February and March.
Doug Webster can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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