Ag Weather Forum

Can a New Weather Pattern Bring Change to W. Canada?

By Doug Webster , DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist
The monthly mean temperature difference from normal, for the Canadian Prairies, shows how much warmer it has been for February. (Chart courtesy of Environment Canada)

Temperatures have been anything but wintry across parts of western Canada again during February, but as the accompanying chart from Environment Canada shows, some portions of northern Manitoba were on the cold side of normal. For the areas where most of the crops are grown, the weather was quite mild with any cold conditions brief in nature.

Precipitation was again lacking for the Prairies with precipitation percentages for Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba that I keep showing 52%, 88%, and 95% of normal, respectively. The driest conditions occurred where the mildest weather was recorded with the cooler eastern Prairies able to take advantage of some see-saw temperatures that produced a little more precipitation.

As March begins, we see all our computer models on board for a changing weather pattern during the next week. But, with a rather large change to the overall pattern anticipated by this time next week across North America, does this mean big changes for the Prairies?

The polar vortex that is across Eastern Canada is forecast to break apart and weaken before lifting to the far northern reaches of Canada next week. At the same time, a strengthening southern stream jet is expected to push eastward across the southern U.S. and the ridge now across the western U.S. is expected to end up across the eastern U.S. and southeast Canada.

For many areas of the U.S., some sizable turnarounds in temperature and precipitation chances are seen, but across Western Canada we do not expect the changes to be as noticeable. There are a couple of reasons behind why the Prairies may not see so much of a change.

One is that we are still expecting to see mostly Pacific air cross into Western Canada despite seeing the departure of the ridge that has been around for the past few weeks. This is still a mostly mild type of pattern, but probably not as extreme as we have seen. We do expect a few periods of colder air as modified polar air settles southward in the Prairies.

The second reason is the break-up of the polar vortex across Eastern Canada will take away the potential of seeing very cold weather for any length of time. Cold and warm air played a game of tag across the eastern Prairies during February and this process should be reduced during the next few weeks. With the cold air source diminishing as the days lengthen we see a pattern that still favors milder-than-normal conditions for the Prairies, just not as far above normal as recently.

Precipitation chances could see some improvement as we move through the next few weeks. The flow from the Pacific may carry a few low pressure areas across southwest Canada and the Prairies that might deposit a little more precipitation than we have seen so far during the winter. While we are not expecting heavy amounts of precipitation, we do expect to see an up-tick in activity.

While many portions of Canada and the U.S. see some sizable changes to the overall weather pattern during the coming week or two, the Prairies are expected to see only modest changes. Mild weather is expected to be less extreme and we are expecting some improvement in the precipitation department.

Doug Webster can be reached at



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