On the Prairies, water flowing in a ditch is about as common as, well, ditches and water.
But water flowing in a ditch in southern Manitoba in the third week of February is a long way from common.
Open water was hard to miss Feb. 22, along the Trans-Canada Highway between Winnipeg and Brandon because nearly every field had a small or large pond of melt water.
Snow was melting and ponding because it’s been mild in Manitoba for an unusually long stretch. From Feb. 13-22 the Environment Canada weather station in Brandon recorded nine days out of 10 with temperatures above zero.
The story is similar in Saskatoon. It had 10 consecutive days of above zero temperatures in the middle of February.
There was a comparable period of balmy weather in January, but the data shows that last winter was warmer, said David Phillips, Environment Canada senior climatologist.
“This year (in Saskatoon) was about a degree colder than last year, for the same January-February (period),” said Phillips from his office near Toronto.
Environment Canada data shows that Phillips is correct.
• Last year the average temperature in Saskatoon in January and February was –10.4 C.
• This year the average from Jan. 1-21 was -11.2 C.
• The story is similar in Brandon, where this January-February has been .7 C colder.
Seeing water in ditches can be freaky in February, but the difference between this year and last is the number of cold days.
In the winter of 2015-16, Saskatoon recorded only two days below -30 C. So far this winter there have been nine days below -30 C.
Likewise in Brandon, there have been 10 days below -30 C this winter and only five days in 2015-16.
Ten consecutive days with temperatures above zero does make February more pleasant, but winter is definitely not over, Phillips said.
Environment Canada models suggest that early March will be colder than normal on the Prairies.
That may shift later in the month because the latter part of March and early April could be warmer.