Winter Report Card: How it's gone (and what's still to come)
Wednesday, January 18, 2017, 3:19 PM - Mid-January means the halfway point of meteorological winter, which begins on December 1 and ends February 28.
It also serves as a perfect time to hand out a halfway point report card and take stock of how winter has measured up so far (and look ahead at what we can expect as we move into the second half of the season).
A classic ... with notable exceptions
Classic Canadian winter weather has dominated much of Canada since early December of 2016. However, a few notable exceptions include the Greater Toronto Area, parts of eastern Ontario and Niagara, as well as parts of coastal Nova Scotia, where the snow cover has been inconsistent and almost nonexistent during January.
The map below shows the temperature anomaly, or departure from normal, across North America for the first 45 days of winter, from December 1 to January 15. Much of Canada falls into the normal to below-normal range for this period, with the core of the coldest anomalies found in the Prairies and B.C.
Much of B.C., Alberta, and southwestern Saskatchewan experienced bitterly cold temperatures from 3-6°C lower than seasonal (shades of green) in the first half of winter, with the coldest areas in interior British Columbia as much as 8°C below seasonal (shades of purple). The cold spread eastward across central Canada, with much of northeastern Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and western Ontario reporting temperatures 1-3°C below seasonal (shades of blue).
Another region of overall cold was found in Atlantic Canada, particularly Newfoundland, Labrador, eastern Quebec, and New Brunswick. This part of the country has also seen temperatures in the range of 1-3°C below seasonal (shades of blue). In the east, only parts of Nova Scotia saw temperatures on the whole near normal, thanks to a few surges of milder air from passing storms.
The only region to see temperatures near to above normal for the season so far is across western Quebec and much of Ontario from Hudson Bay south to the Great Lakes. Though this part of the country has certainly seen periods of Arctic air, periods of milder weather have resulted in overall temperatures 1-3°C above normal.
Where the snow is falling
Cold is one way to look at how severe a winter has been, but snowfall also plays a big role in how severe a winter feels. We took a look at snow totals from 10 major cities around the country, and compared the snow they’ve received so far to the amount that they’d expect to see in an average winter (December, January, and February).
All things being equal, we’d expect to see about half of a season’s average snowfall by January 15. This doesn’t take into account the climatological differences within a season, but it’s a decent first look at who’s on pace to reach average snowfall by the beginning of Meteorological Spring on March 1.
|CITY||Percent of Average Winter Snowfall by January 15|
As you can see, all of the cities on our list have received at least 50 per cent of winter snowfall by the midpoint in the season, theoretically meaning that they’re all on pace to have at least average snowfall for the season. Many cities stand out as being well ahead of average, including Vancouver, Calgary, and Halifax, which are already approaching three-month average totals only halfway through the season. The real standout here is Winnipeg, which has already received over 1.5 times typical winter snow, thanks to the second snowiest December on record.
So in summary, the winter so far has been cold for many, and snowy for most, in line with our Winter Forecast prediction of a classic Canadian winter.
A look at the second half of the season
However, sports fans know that it is very risky to make conclusions about a game or a season based on first half performance and the same can apply to judging the weather. So, where do we go from here? Here’s a look at the long range pattern, for the second half of January into February.
Much of Canada is experiencing an extended January thaw as Pacific air rather than Arctic air has spread across Canada. The warmest area relative to normal is across central Canada where many will continue to see temperatures 10-20°C warmer than normal through the upcoming weekend, the second-last one in January.
But hold on: Winter is still far from over.
A slow transition back towards a wintry pattern, though the eastern half of Canada will remain quite mild for most of the week.
By the following and final weekend (January 28–30), expect a more amplified jet stream pattern which will allow for arctic air to return to the national weather pattern as we head into February. The map below shows the pattern that we expect will dominate the month of February and on into March. At this point it looks like the focus of the below seasonal temperatures will be further to the east (closer to the Great Lakes) than what saw during the first half of winter.
What grade are you giving winter so far? Let us know in the comment section below.