If you were thinking that winter was pretty much done with us, think again. Just as most of us started to get used to temperatures less harsh than those experienced for much of the winter, a renewal of the cold-weather-making weather pattern is upon us.
The seemingly never-ending rotating polar vortex across eastern Canada is beginning to gain some gusto again while the recently weakened western North America ridge starts to build northward. The result will be a new series of arctic high pressure areas extending from northwest Canada southeastward into the Prairies during the next five-day period. Below- to well-below-normal temperatures will again take control of much of the main crop areas of Western Canada.
On a more positive note, the length of daylight now exceeds night, so the ability for severe cold to develop quickly and have long-lasting effects should begin to diminish during the coming weeks. Snow cover still does cover all of Canada, but there are holes within the snow cover now across southwest Saskatchewan and southeastern Alberta.
Snow cover this season compared to a year ago at this time is much less throughout the region. As of March 18, snow depth departures were actually somewhat less than normal from southern Saskatchewan to Alberta, while northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba still were on the plus side of normal. These departures are based upon data averaged out from 1998 through 2012.
As long as we do not go into a snowy weather pattern during the next few weeks, we should not have to deal with a major flood potential, as it appears now for most of the central and western Prairies. However, the jury is still out for Manitoba, since cold weather and potential snow could be a little more aggressive for that province into April.
April weather outlooks continue to point to colder-than-normal temperature threats for northern and eastern portions of the Prairies with southern Alberta possibly the least affected. Precipitation forecasts continue to show mostly normal values for April which should not create a huge snow pack as we saw last year.
Temperatures will continue to be more of the potential delaying factor for the start of spring field work across the region. Colder-than-normal readings will slow down the spring melt, especially across eastern areas. The good part of a slow meltdown is reduced flooding potential while the bad part is a slow start for farmers to get out into the fields.
In the near term, the weather pattern does not favor much precipitation for most areas with only a little light to moderate snow once in a while as reinforcing cold enters the region. There is some chance that as we move into early April that the jet stream may begin to drive some Pacific moisture and storms into southwest Canada and the southern Prairies and then we may see an upswing in precipitation while cold air only slowly relaxes.
Doug Webster can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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