Mid-winter temperatures during the first week of March are like a broken record as the cold air making weather pattern across North America has remained in place. Severely low temperatures for March have been recorded for nearly all of Canada, but there are strong signals that the Prairies are in for a much milder weather regime as soon as this weekend.
The question then becomes how long our reprieve from the cold will last, and if the colder weather returns will it be as severe as observed lately? The answer looks to be that some colder weather should return later next week, but may be targeted more for the eastern Prairies, a pattern more like what we saw during January.
The mid-March weather pattern looks to be relatively the same as what we have seen for much of the winter, but with the main trough just a little further east than what has been observed during the past 10 days. This would put the eastern half of Canada in the crosshairs of the cold air more than western areas. This is not to say some arctic air may still not find its way into the Prairies for brief periods.
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Precipitation potential appears to be limited with the expected upcoming pattern. A general area of upper level ridge is expected near the West Coast of Canada or across the Gulf of Alaska through mid-March and limit the potential of getting any major amount of moisture across the Rockies into Prairies. Fairly weak clipper systems are expected to track through the northern or eastern Prairies where snowfall potential is a little greater.
The forecast for less-than-average snow for the next few weeks may be good news down the road. A snow pack a little more typical this year should diminish the threat of major spring flooding, as long as we don't move into a much snowier pattern several weeks from now. Fairly high snow water equivalent values of 80 to 120 centimeters (3.1 to 4.7 inches) are covering areas from central Saskatchewan to south-central Alberta as of March 1, but these values are only about two-thirds of last year's values at this time.
The latest April forecasts are depicting a temperature pattern of lower than normal for the eastern Prairies with near-to-above-normal readings for Western Canada. This tends to match some of what we have seen during the past few months. Precipitation forecasts indicate wetter-than-normal conditions for the West, with Manitoba seeing less-than-average precipitation. If this forecast bears out, then we may see some increase in upslope and overrunning precipitation during April as milder weather across the western Prairies pushes into the colder readings across the east.
Spring fieldwork and planting prospects will hinge upon how cold or snowy it is in late March and early April. Given the above forecast, we might see better conditions for the west and not so good conditions for the eastern Prairies.
Doug Webster can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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