The days continue to lengthen as the sun gets higher in the sky. The past winter was not one that will be remembered for snow and cold, but rather how El Nino kept temperatures mild and precipitation less than average. As April grows closer, we see signs that winter weather may not be done with us and could become more of the norm than what we have seen during the actual winter.
El Nino is weakening, but quite slowly, across the equatorial Pacific and is probably loosening its grip on Western Canada's weather to some extent. We have seen a turn to colder weather and the arrival of some snow during the past few days as the weather pattern has taken on a little more of a normal look for the second half of March.
With spring fieldwork on the minds of some farmers during the next few weeks, we thought that a look at April might be in order today. The upper air pattern has undergone some changes recently that make it look more like late-March. The polar vortex has become stronger across north-central Canada and is expected to make a home across northern Hudson Bay during the next week or two.
Across the North Pacific we have seen the flow of Pacific air into Western Canada weaken lately and models are telling us that this flow may entirely come to a stop during the next week. This is why it has turned colder recently across eastern parts of the Prairies and why the western Prairies still have some mild weather.
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The current pattern should linger into early next week with colder weather across the east and still fairly mild weather across the west, but as we move toward April 1, we see signs that the colder air may begin to take over more of Western Canada.
An impressive upper air ridge is expected to develop across the eastern Gulf of Alaska and along the West Coast of Canada blocking the eastward push of Pacific air, while helping to establish arctic high pressure through northwest Canada. This cold weather should be guided southward into the Prairies by later next week and beyond for some time.
The typical precipitation threats that go with a cold pattern will develop in the form of some upslope snow from time-to-time. Snow cover has expanded during the past week and covers more of the Prairies now that it did during February.
In the accompanying graphic, you can see the latest forecast for April from the U.S. National Center for Environmental Prediction. A large area of blue stands out across most of Canada with only British Columbia showing mild readings. This forecast hints that winter weather may still be a player well into April and the early spring that might have been might not happen at all.
The precipitation forecast for April that goes with the temperature forecast is showing somewhat above-normal temperatures which would imply more snow than average. This could be good news in helping to bring some moisture to improve soil moisture as the snow melts later in the spring.
For now we will have to wait and see if the forecast of winter type weather during April delays spring fieldwork or not, but it does appear that we may play some catch-up on winter weather that we did not have during the actual winter.
Doug Webster can be reached at email@example.com
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