As the day length increases at a more rapid pace and the sun gets higher in the sky, we begin to expect weather to gradually begin its annual warming trend. Unfortunately, any signs of spring are at best remote and mostly confined to the longer time we see the sun each day.
With February's weather all but in the books, we find that unlike the earlier portion of winter when western areas were milder, temperatures were consistently very low from east to west across the Prairies. Temperature departures have ranged from 6 to 8 degrees Celsius (10 to 13 Fahrenheit) below normal across all of the Prairies for February.
The weather pattern that has been delivering cold weather to a large portion of North America during the past year is still alive and well and shows little sign of letting up anytime soon. The average position of the polar vortex remains on the North America side of the northern hemisphere and will keep cold air locked in across most of Canada for some time. There are some signs that southwestern Canada and the western Prairies will see the cold weather ease and break down about 10 days down the road.
It may sound like a broken record, but we have seen that happen already a few times during the past several months where the cold pattern weakens for a short time only to resume once again. We can't be sure this won't happen again since the main weather features across the Northern Hemisphere do not appear to make a major shift as we move into mid-March.
Most can certainly recall what a cold and snowy March and April the Prairies saw during 2013 when this pattern started to take hold. Snowy weather does not seem to be in the picture for a while with arctic high pressure in control producing plenty of cold, but as we move deeper into March, will we begin to see increased storminess as the jet stream begins its seasonal northward shift?
Longer-range model forecasts for March for the Prairies are saying no to the idea of above-normal snowfall for March with below-normal precipitation being forecast. Below-normal temperatures are also being forecast by these same models. The potential for extended winter weather well into March or April would start to delay transportation in preparation of spring fieldwork operations.
A delayed start to spring planting could certainly evolve over time given the better-than-even chances of winter lasting into spring once again. One aspect of this season that is a little different than last year is that the snow depths are lower, but we also are moving into a time when precipitation starts to increase. We saw lots of snow last March and April and we can't rule out the possibility that with the cold weather expected to continue that snowfall starts to ramp up in a few weeks as the more active jet stream begins to shift northward.
Doug Webster can be reached at email@example.com
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