Ag Weather Forum

Winter Arrives in Spring for W. Canada

By Doug Webster , DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist
The snow cover chart from last night shows that snow cover remains below average across the Prairies for this time of year. (Chart courtesy of Environment Canada)

Temperatures have been anything but what we would expect during March for most of the Canadian Prairies of late, including record high temperatures for some locations during the past week. Temperatures at Melita, Manitoba reached a daily record high of 20.5 Celsius (69 Fahrenheit) this past Monday and likely was the earliest date for temperatures to reach 20 C (68 F) for the province of Manitoba on record.

The warmth has quickly become a memory during the past two days as a new weather pattern has taken control across North America that is more in keeping with winter. A ridge has decided to build along the west coast of North America while a broad trough develops across Canada. With time, the polar vortex is expected to slide southward to northern Hudson Bay by early or middle of next week.

The reasons for the weather pattern change are not completely clear, but one would ponder whether the weakening El Nino across the tropical Pacific Ocean may be allowing the polar jet stream to have more of a say in what happens to our weather. In any case, the cold air that has been locked up across far northern Canada most of the time lately is now making a home across much of Canada and spilling southward into the central and eastern U.S. as well.

Springtime on the calendar may mean a return of winter weather for many areas that have seen very little winter weather during the past few months. Below-normal temperatures are likely for most of the next several days across the Prairies and we see signs that more cold weather may drop in on us from the north during the second half of next week and beyond.

Snow has been mostly below normal across Western Canada during the winter and we see some increased chances of snow coming along with our new weather pattern. Instead of weather systems crossing from west to east to the north of the Prairies, we now see a storm track moving in from the Pacific and crossing along the U.S./Canadian border. This is more favorable to bring snow to many areas and the next decent opportunity appears to be early next week. Further chances are seen down the road as well.

Snow cover has been sparse for the southern and southwest Prairies this winter, but we may see some increase in coverage during the next week or two. Part of central Saskatchewan and Manitoba that have had more of a sustained snow cover may see an increase in snow depths.

The attached snow cover chart from Environment Canada from last night shows that snow cover remains below average across the Prairies for this time of year, but there has been some increase in coverage since last week for parts of southern Saskatchewan and southwest Manitoba from the storm system that passed through the region a couple days ago.

The changing weather pattern brings us hope that an upswing in precipitation may occur during the next few weeks helping to set up favorable soil moisture conditions for spring seeding in several weeks. Some of the model forecasts for April are showing a renewal of the milder, drier weather that we got used to during the winter so it may be good news if we can put down some higher precipitation totals during the next two weeks.

Doug Webster can be reached at



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