February’s cold weather traced to solar flares

RED DEER — The shivering cold month of February could not be predicted but long-range forecaster Art Douglas can explain why it happened.

“The culprit was in the Pacific Ocean,” said the climatologist at the Alberta Beef Industry Conference held in Red Deer March 12-14.

A professor emeritus at Creighton University in Nebraska, Douglas is also the long-range weather forecaster for the market firm Cattlefax.

A strong ridge of high pressure developed in the central north Pacific Ocean in February. The ridge was the highest ever observed and can displace pockets of very cold air. This ridge was part of a phenomenon known as a sudden stratospheric warming event covering the Arctic.

The North Pole is dark all winter and there have been minimal solar flares this year. These flares affect weather patterns like polar air and El Nino.

“If all of a sudden you have a sunspot erupt, it starts sending energy towards the planet and the magnetic pole picks up that energy, pulls it to the North Pole and hits it. The upper atmosphere warms up rapidly. It pushes the polar vortex to the sides,” he said.

The polar vortex moves down and causes extreme cold.

Douglas is also forecasting cold weather across the Prairies during the first part of spring that could delay planting.

Alberta will have spotty precipitation in April but pick up moisture in May.

The Alberta summer will be on the dry side, especially in the western grazing areas. Northern Alberta will experience spotty dryness that extends into northern Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba are likely to be cooler than normal in April but warm up in May. June could be hot.

B.C. can expect a warm summer that extends into the Prairies.

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