Very cold weather has been the rule across northwest Canada as well as through the Canadian Prairie crop region during the past few weeks with few breaks. Temperatures for most have averaged in the below-to-well-below-normal range with actual readings during the past 10 days falling to as low as minus 5 to minus 28 F (minus 21 to minus 33 C) on some nights.
Such cold weather is to be expected across the Prairies during the winter at times and is usually followed by periods of more moderate temperatures. Well, it appears one of these moderation trends is on our doorstep. The jet stream is about to shift enough to allow for some Pacific air influence across Western Canada during the next week and maybe longer. Temperatures should rise first across Alberta during the next couple of days to near or even a little milder than normal while it will take a day or two longer for Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
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The milder temperatures will occur with little or no precipitation and snowfall prospects look slim through much of next week. Snow cover remains adequate to protect winter grain crops from the extremely cold nights we have seen lately with most areas reporting 6 to 10 inches (15 to 25 cm) of snow on the ground. Snow is an excellent insulator and just several inches is all that is needed to keep soil temperatures just a few degrees below freezing versus much lower readings with bare ground.
Just how long the respite from arctic cold lasts is somewhat up in the air. Current model projections show a more moderate temperature pattern through Christmas before temperatures take a downward swing. Not all climate models are on board for the colder trend but the majority are. After some seasonable amounts of snow during the past month, most model projections show a drier pattern during the remainder of December.
For now we can enjoy a break in the cold until arctic air returns to northwest Canada and slides down the east slopes of the Rockies later this month once again.
Doug Webster can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org