Bitter cold has had a grip across most of the central and northeastern Prairies during the winter with milder breaks seemingly few and far between. It's been less cold across Alberta, where Chinook winds have developed a little more frequently, sending temperatures to milder-than-normal levels in-between spells of cold.
The weather pattern that has controlled the winter so far has shown at most minor change during the past two months, so can we expect to finish out the winter with the same general temperature and precipitation pattern? In the short term, we do expect some increase in temperatures for most areas, as the core of cold weather shifts to northern Canada for a time.
The result for the Prairies will be a greater ability for Chinook winds to develop and send temperatures to the plus side of normal during the next week to 10 days. It may not be mild all of the time, but it may be the majority of the time. Manitoba will be the one area that could struggle to see some of the warmth, but even here the arctic cold weather should ease. The main polar vortex is likely to lift to northern Canada and it is near the polar vortex where most of the arctic cold tends to reside.
As for remaining in a somewhat milder pattern for the remainder of the winter, many indications say no. An upper level ridge is forecast to return to far Western Canada and the eastern Gulf of Alaska after the middle of February. This type of upper air pattern will allow arctic air to return southward through the Prairies and may again send temperatures to below-normal levels to finish out February.
The weather patterns during the next few weeks are not ones that generally produce much precipitation. The milder one during the next 10 days tends to favor drying Chinook winds from the west. The return of colder weather could bring a little bit of upslope snow to western areas, but most of the time arctic air is very dry and not a good source for precipitation.
More precipitation will be needed later this winter and early spring to increase soil moisture for spring crops. The current prospects do not look all that good, but it is important to recall that last year at this time the outlook was for dry weather and we did gain decent moisture during the spring for many areas.
Doug Webster can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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