Ag Weather Forum

Winter on Vacation Across W. Canada

Doug Webster
By  Doug Webster , DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist

The cold air making machine that was so familiar across Canada during the past 2 or 3 winters has decided to take a vacation this year so far. Other than a few colder than normal days during the last 10 days of November the Prairies have had mostly Pacific air domination leading to above normal temperatures.

November temperature departures across the Prairie provinces averaged above normal by 1.2 degrees C for Alberta, 3.2 degrees C for Saskatchewan, a rather robust 4.0 degrees C across Manitoba. This temperature departure profile is quite consistent with El Nino conditions through the Pacific and we continue to see strong evidence that the mild and mostly dry conditions will continue through December and into January.

Precipitation totals were a little less than average last month favoring the western Prairies. Provincial averages of 78 percent of normal were noted for Alberta, 87 percent of normal for Saskatchewan, and 103 percent of normal for Manitoba where late month storminess bolstered the total.

The warming Pacific origin air has made a return during the past few days sending temperatures back to above and well above normal levels and we see no indication that any significant change is coming anytime soon. The main jet stream flow will continue to rush into the coasts of British Columbia and the U.S. Pacific Northwest before tracking east across the Prairies and then toward south-central Canada.

Without the ridge across the western part of North America to block Pacific air from moving inland we will not see the development of polar and arctic air across much of Canada as we did during the previous few winter seasons. Temperatures will pretty much be in the above to well above normal category for most areas for an extended period of time and a few record high temperatures can not be ruled out once in a while.

This pattern will also not be one to produce much precipitation with most of the moisture getting deposited on the west facing slopes of the mountains through British Columbia. After that the winds will downslope from the Rockies onto the Prairies which is a drying pattern.

There remains overwhelming evidence that this mild, dry pattern will continue through much of December and as you can see from the accompanying forecast chart from NOAA for January 2016 things are not expected to change much then either. Sometimes we encounter conflicting ideas amongst the computer models but during the recent few weeks we have seen remarkable agreement with our weather forecast tools. The model agreement falls right into place with what strong El Nino weather patterns of the past have produced.

While we are quite confident of the forecast during the next several weeks we do always keep on the back burner the possibility that somewhere along the line some high latitude blocking could evolve which could quickly create a much more wintry pattern. At this point there remains no indication of such a pattern but we will be watching for the possibility. We should also be aware that while the temperatures for the next several weeks look to be quite mild on average there will most likely be a couple of short periods when colder weather does make an appearance.

Doug Webster can be reached at



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