Bundle up; La Nina expected to bring in prairie deep freeze

The weather outside is going to be frightful this winter, according to forecasters.

Temperatures across the Prairies will range from 1C to 4C below normal for the December through February period, says AccuWeather Canadian weather expert Brett Anderson.

“Over a three-month period, that’s fairly significant,” he said.

Manitoba will be the coldest, followed by Saskatchewan and then Alberta.

Anderson said a developing La Nina will result in a strong northwest jet stream that will push Arctic air into the Prairies. He wouldn’t be surprised to see a few days in the -35 C to -40 C range.

“We’re most confident this is going to be a colder than usual winter,” he said.

Arctic air is dry, so while the cold will bring snow it won’t contain much moisture. Western Alberta will get decent winter moisture but the eastern Prairies will not. Areas that are dry heading into winter will be dry coming out of it.

Biting winds will accompany the frigid Arctic air, leading to dangerous wind chill levels and more days of blowing, drifting snow.

Drew Lerner, president of World Weather Inc., has a similar winter forecast calling for a cooler-than-normal bias.

“When we do get the cold, it’s going to be significantly below normal but we’re not going to have a prolonged period of that,” he said. “You may have two or three impressive surges but the rest of the time it’s not going to be that far off from normal.”

Winter will start off with a warmer bias in November, turning chilly in mid-December, with the coldest temperatures reserved for January and February.

Lerner said the Arctic Oscillation climate pattern is moving into a negative bias, which brings cold air out of the Arctic into the Prairies.

“It’s not going to be in its negative phase all winter long. It’s going to be a short-term bout of it and that’s why we get these shots of cold.”

Lerner is forecasting above average snowfall from the foothills of the Rockies extending out to a path from Edson, through Red Deer, Calgary, Lethbridge and dipping into the United States.

“There is a chance that some of that will work its way back up to the southern most part of the Prairies, near the U.S. border,” he said.

A large chunk of the northern Prairies from northwest Manitoba through to northeast Alberta will see below average snowfall.

Lerner worries about southeast and south-central Saskatchewan and southern Manitoba where it is very dry.

“The need for some kind of significant precipitation event in the next few weeks before we freeze up the ground is really important.”

The snow that region will receive will barely moisten the top inch of the soil.

About the author


Stories from our other publications