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January brought two contrasting patterns across Canada. So, what's next?

Pattern change on the way: A look into the weeks ahead

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Dr. Doug Gillham
Meteorologist, PhD

Friday, January 17, 2014, 7:24 PM -

January 2014 has brought two very distinct and contrasting weather patterns across Canada. The month started with a week of exceptionally cold weather with numerous records broken from the Rockies to the Atlantic. Typically when eastern Canada is unusually cold, the west is mild and vice versa, but during early January, British Columbia was the only province to escape the harsh winter conditions.

The map below highlights temperature anomalies during the first week of January.

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In other words, instead of showing the actual temperature, the colours highlight regions that were warmer or colder than the seasonal temperatures for each location. 

The blue, green and purple colours indicate the colder-than-seasonal temperatures from Alberta to Newfoundland with parts of Manitoba, western Ontario and Atlantic Canada 10 to 16°C below what those regions typically see during the first week of January.

The next map shows the dramatic change in the weather pattern (our January thaw or wintermission) that occurred during the second week of January.

The orange and brown colours with embedded grays and whites highlight the regions that were as much as 16°C above seasonal for a week or longer. Northern Ontario, Quebec, much of the Maritimes and parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan experienced the warmest temperatures relative to their “normal” temperatures.


So, where do we go from here? We are in the midst of a pattern change which is bringing a return to below seasonal temperatures from Manitoba to the Maritimes. Meanwhile western Canada will remain warmer than seasonal, though many southern coastal areas and interior valley will be cooler due to the fog. Newfoundland will remain warmer than seasonal, but with a trend to colder temperatures during the week. Also, it is important to keep in mind that heavy snow can still occur with above seasonal temperatures. The following image shows national temperatures relative to seasonal through Thursday, January 23rd.

As head into the end of January, there are strong indications that we are headed into a very cold weather pattern that will continue expand across the country and potentially be as cold or colder than what we experienced during the first week of January.

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The image below shows that during the final week of January, much of the west of the Rockies is forecast to be colder than seasonal with the coldest temperatures extending from near Winnipeg to southern Quebec. During this period we will return to a pattern similar to what we experienced in early January with air masses that originated in Siberia. It is also worth noting that for much of Canada the last week of January has the coldest “average” temperatures of the year, so colder than seasonal temperatures during this time would be exceptionally cold.


While there is often low confidence in such long range forecasts, confidence in the upcoming pattern change is much higher than usual. It also looks like this pattern will stick around for quite a while. The following image shows a model forecast for temperatures relative to average for the first 10 days of February. While British Columbia and northern Alberta may see a relaxation of the cold temperatures, the rest of the country should see a continuation of the well below seasonal temperatures well into February.

The final image shows a model forecast for February 10 - 20th. Our confidence in the forecast this far out is diminished but the overall message is very clear - we are headed back into an extended period of cold weather. After our intermission from winter, Act 2 may well outdo what we experienced during December and early January.

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