Mild or Wild? Your 2019 Winter Forecast
Wednesday, November 28, 2018, 9:00 AM - Most Canadians have already experienced an early and abrupt blast of wintry weather. Is this a false start to winter or a preview of what is to come? According to the Weather Network’s Winter Forecast, it depends on which part of Canada you call home.
We have a developing El Niño and typically that signals a milder winter across most of the country and for Western Canada that is exactly what we expect for the upcoming season. For the western Prairies this means the abnormally cold fall has not been a sign of things to come.
However, from the Great Lakes to Atlantic Canada we are seeing a preview of what will become the dominant pattern for winter. This is quite different from what we saw the last time that we had an El Niño three years ago (2015-2016). However, this year’s version of El Niño will be much weaker and a number of other factors in the global pattern will contribute to a longer and colder winter for this region.
The map below shows our temperature forecast, highlighting two distinct patterns for the months of December, January and February across Canada.
The dominant storm track this winter is expected to be from the Gulf of Mexico, up the eastern seaboard of the U.S. and into Atlantic Canada. This is expected to bring above normal precipitation (including snowfall) to Atlantic Canada.
Across the rest of Canada, snow totals are expected to be near normal, but a large region from southern B.C. to northwestern Ontario could see less snow than normal during the months of December, January and February.
Here is a more detailed look at what our winter forecast means for each region of the country.
Overall, a milder winter is expected across the province with fewer episodes of Arctic air compared to what we typically see for the south coast and Lower Mainland. We also expect fewer threats of significant snow in coastal areas and interior valleys. Below normal precipitation is anticipated across southern B.C. with fewer storms and more extended periods of dry weather. Meanwhile, the north coast is expected to be wetter than normal.
However, the dry pattern will break down at times, allowing for an abundance of rain and mountain snow in relatively short periods of time. This should allow south coast rainfall totals to approach normal levels despite the overall drier pattern. The ski season is expected to be challenging at times and the key for the north shore ski areas will be the exact snow levels during the few periods of active weather. At this point it looks like a few close calls where the difference in snow levels between 1,000 versus 1,500 metres will be critical.
Preliminary indications are pointing towards an earlier arrival of spring weather.
PRAIRIES AND NORTHWESTERN ONTARIO
The Prairies will be the battle zone between the mild Pacific air to the west and Arctic air to the east. This will result in a changeable winter with back and forth swings in temperature, which are expected to tip to the mild side of normal across Alberta and into western Saskatchewan. However, these temperature swings should come close to offsetting each other across the eastern Prairies and northwestern Ontario.
While the final numbers are predicted to be near “normal” across eastern Saskatchewan, Manitoba and northwestern Ontario, much of the winter could end up feeling anything but “normal”. Extended periods of harsh winter weather are expected, along with periods of mild weather. Most of the region is expected to see near normal or below normal snowfall with lower than typical concerns for spring flooding.
SOUTHERN AND EASTERN ONTARIO AND QUEBEC
WATCH BELOW: WHAT TO EXPECT IN ONTARIO
A long, cold winter is probable across most of the region. Colder than normal temperatures are already in the books for October and November and this pattern should dominate through the winter, especially during the season’s second half. Winter will take a breather at times during December and the traditional January thaw is still expected across southern areas with the potential for an extended thaw before a bitter conclusion to winter.
This region will see numerous clippers but fewer moisture-laden Colorado and Texas lows are expected. An abundance of lake effect snow is expected for the traditional snow belts east and southeast of the Great Lakes due to frequent shots of Arctic air. This should mean near normal snowfall totals despite fewer high impact storms than normal.
However, areas outside of the snow belts, including the Greater Toronto Area, may fall short of normal snowfall as the dominant storm track will typically be south and east of the region.
BELOW: WHAT'S IN STORE FOR QUEBEC
While Ontario and Quebec will be teased with early spring weather in March, we expect a delay in the arrival of consistent spring warmth.
November has provided Atlantic Canada with a preview of the long and stormy winter that is anticipated across the region.
An active storm track from the Gulf of Mexico, up the U.S. East Coast and into Atlantic Canada is expected. While many of these storms will track offshore and keep snow as the dominant precipitation type across the region, some of these storms will track further north.
This will bring very mild temperatures and rain at times, especially to southern areas where temperatures are forecast to balance out to near normal for the season. The winter pattern will also likely linger into early spring.
Above normal temperatures are expected to dominate much of the region, including all of the Yukon and Northwest Territories and western Nunavut. However, near to below normal temperatures are predicted for eastern Nunavut including Iqaluit.
Above normal snowfall is expected across the Yukon and into western Northwest Territories. Near normal snowfall totals are expected elsewhere across the region.
Colder than normal temperatures are expected across most of the southeast U.S. including Florida. Of course, this region will still see periods of warm and sunny weather, but occasional shots of Arctic air are expected deep into the southern U.S., and like last winter that includes the risk of wintry precipitation all the way to the Gulf of Mexico a couple of times during the season.
In addition, above normal precipitation is expected across much of the southern U.S. as an active subtropical jet stream crosses the region. This pattern will also increase the threat for severe weather at times during the winter across the Gulf States, including Florida.