Spring Forecast 2017 and a sneak peek at summer, here
Monday, March 20, 2017, 4:55 PM - The remarkable winter of 2016-2017 will be remembered very differently depending on which part of Canada you call home. While millions of Canadians experienced exceptionally mild temperatures during January and February, much of the country (geographically) experienced a “classic Canadian winter” with an abundance of snow.
The Good, Bad & Ugly
The 'classic winter' called for (re-read Winter Forecast 2016/17 here) was particularly true in the West, where Arctic air and frequent storms brought impactful snow even to typically mild locations like Vancouver and Victoria, while in the mountains of B.C., snowfall was measured in meters.
The Prairies also saw bitter cold at times and significant snow, with Winnipeg seeing its second snowiest winter on record. A stormy pattern for Atlantic Canada brought howling winds, heavy snow, and blizzard conditions from the Maritimes to Newfoundland, especially late in the season.
One region – southern Ontario – did see persistent mild conditions during the heart of winter (after a cold and snowy start to the season in December), which caused one of Canada’s most densely populated regions to miss out on what we anticipated.
Spring temperature pattern
It’s important to keep in mind that spring is a transitional season, in which it is normal to have wild temperature swings. Periods of unseasonal cold and warmth will likely occur in all regions of the country. That is not a forecast – just a reminder of how spring typically plays out in Canada.
Looking ahead to the remainder of March, April, and May, here are the dominant temperature patterns that we expect across the country.
A sluggish start, but then ...
Through the first two-thirds of March, most of Canada has experienced below seasonal temperatures, and winter will still have a few more parting shots for parts of the country before more persistent spring weather sets in. This is in contrast to last year, in which March was very mild across most of Canada but was followed by an extended period of well-below normal temperatures from the Great Lakes to the Maritimes during April and the first few weeks of May.
This year, near to above normal temperatures are expected to dominate April and May across most of Canada east of the Rockies with the warmest weather relative to normal near the U.S. border from the Great Lakes through the Maritimes. This region is expected to see a quicker-than-“normal” transition from spring to early summer-like temperatures. Meanwhile, near-to-below seasonal temperatures are expected for B.C.
Spring precipitation pattern
An active storm track and abundant Gulf moisture are expected to bring near to above normal precipitation across much of southern Canada during the spring months - some of which has already come in the form of snow with the numerous late winter storms that have persisted through much of March.
Above normal precipitation in the spring often brings flood concerns, especially when coupled with the melting of the winter snowpack. This year, periods of very mild weather during the latter half of winter have helped to reduce the snowpack in many places, especially across the Prairies. But with healthy snowfall through early March in parts of the Maritimes and British Columbia, the flood threat will still have to be monitored in areas where the snow is deep.
For the Great Lakes region, we do not expect more rainy days than normal, but systems that track through the region will have the potential to overachieve with heavy rain as they tap into abundant moisture from the Gulf of Mexico which is currently several degrees warmer than normal.
This time last year we were highly confident that the upcoming summer would be very warm and dry from the Great Lakes to the Maritimes – and that worked out well.
Some years there are strong signals in the global pattern that allow for higher confidence in a seasonal forecast, but unfortunately this is not one of those years. During the next few months, one of the keys to our final summer forecast will be the strength of the developing El Niño and whether the warmest water remains just west of South America or whether the warmest water shifts west into the central Pacific.
At this point we expect a rather warm summer from the Great Lakes to Atlantic Canada, but not as hot nor as dry as last summer. For British Columbia we expect a warmer summer than last year, while the Prairies and Northern Ontario are expected to have temperatures comparable to last year.
At this point we do not expect that any region will experience severe drought conditions, but there are signs that British Columbia will become dry as the season progresses with an increasing threat for wildfires.
For those interested in the hurricane season, it doesn’t look like an active season in terms of the total number of storms, but ocean water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and along the East Coast of the U.S. are much warmer than normal and that pattern is expected to continue through the summer. Unfortunately, that could contribute to an elevated threat for a high impact landfall or two from a tropical storm or hurricane.
We will continue to fine tune our summer forecast and have more details for you when we release our summer forecast at the end of May.
WATCH BELOW: OFFICIAL 2017 Summer Sneak Peek -- See what forecasters are saying below