Winter has been mild and dry across most of the Prairies, thanks to El Nino, but some across the northern and northeastern Prairies have seen more snow and cold weather than those to the west. The accompanying chart from Environment Canada shows the percent of average precipitation for the Prairies from Dec. 9 to March 7.
Of note is the large area of dryness across southern Saskatchewan and southern Manitoba as well as western Alberta. Portions of eastern Alberta and western Saskatchewan have seen normal or in some cases above-normal precipitation totals this winter. Of course, we know winter is not normally a big precipitation producer, but with snow cover already scarce to non-existent across southern areas we might expect the spring to get off to a dry start as fieldwork begins in a few weeks.
Mother Nature might have other arrangements in mind if some of the latest model prognostications are correct. Our latest spell of mild weather should last through the weekend, then a trend toward lower temperatures and more precipitation may be in the cards for next week.
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The position of the polar jet stream is expected to shift southward some next week putting the Prairies in the track of a low pressure area moving eastward from the Pacific Monday and Tuesday. As temperatures trend down, we may see precipitation turn on, resulting in some rain and snow trending to snow across the southern and eastern Prairies. There is potential that the eastern Prairies could see a fairly strong snow and wind event by the time we get to Tuesday.
This may not be the only potential winter event on the horizon either. The upper air pattern across Canada is likely to become more favorable for the development of much colder weather across central and Western Canada during the next 10 days and some of this cold air may slide southward into the Prairies and back up against the Rockies.
This is a pattern that can produce much colder weather and periods of upslope snow. Models have been trending toward this solution for a few days now and confidence is increasing that wintry weather may become more noticeable as we move further into March.
El Nino continues to weaken across the equatorial Pacific and this might be part of the reason why we are seeing weather patterns begin to look a little more like they should for March. Another reason is that weather patterns across North America appear to be going into a progressive or changeable phase and this also may contribute to what appears to be some wintry weather for the Prairies during the next week or two.
Doug Webster can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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