AccuWeather came out early in February with its spring weather prediction, so I figured that maybe I should join in and take a look at what the different forecasters are calling for this spring. After all, meteorological spring starts on the first day of March (March-April-May).
In what I think is a pretty bold move, AccuWeather predicted not just a warmer-than-average spring across Canada, but one that might be in the Top 10 or even Top 5 warmest springs on record. Now, if you want to make a name for yourself in long-range weather forecasting you need to go out on a limb now and then, because if and when you get those forecasts correct, everybody is impressed — at least for a little while.
Looking at its overall spring forecast AccuWeather is calling for above-average temperatures for nearly all of Canada (1.0 to 2.0 C above average). Alberta sits right smack in the middle of the region that is expected to have the best chance of seeing well-above-average temperatures (more than 2.0 C above average). Interestingly, this prediction is pretty much mirroring what we are currently seeing across Canada temperature-wise.
As far as precipitation goes, AccuWeather is calling for below-average amounts over Alberta, with amounts increasing to near average as you head east to Manitoba. The only wet areas forecasted are in the Atlantic provinces, much of northeastern Canada, and southwestern Yukon.
Why are AccuWeather forecasters confident enough to predict possibly one of the warmest springs on record? I think it is the same reason that I am leaning towards a warmer-than-average spring forecast.
The first point is that El Niño, while weakening, will still be influencing our weather this spring leading to a greater-than-average chance of milder weather. Secondly, so far this winter, snow cover across Western Canada has been fairly light, which means it won’t take much to melt off the existing snowpack. Once the snow is gone, solar energy normally used to melt snow can now go into heating the air, resulting in warmer-than-average temperatures.
This is the wild card as it only takes one big storm to change this. Currently, the weather pattern we’ve been stuck in for a while now doesn’t lend itself to big storms.
Kind of going along with the low snow cover is record-low sea ice coverage in the Arctic and low levels of ice cover across the Great Lakes. January’s Arctic ice coverage was just over one million square kilometres below the long-term average and was 90,000 square kilometres lower than the previous record low.
So far in February this trend is continuing, with ice coverage running more than two standard deviations below the norm. What does this mean for our spring temperatures? Well, just like with snow, ice cover cools the air by both reflecting sunlight and acting as a natural air conditioner. Low ice levels usually lead to earlier and quicker melts, resulting in a weaker and smaller pool of cold air sitting to our north. As for the Great Lakes, while they don’t directly influence our weather, less ice usually results in milder weather for that region which can influence the large-scale weather patterns across North America.
Now that we have an understanding of what is going on with our weather leading into spring, here’s what some of the other long-range forecasters are calling for.
First, our two almanacs. The Old Farmer’s Almanac is calling for a cool, wet March followed by near- to slightly above-average temperatures in April and May. Precipitation will be near average in April and below average in May. The Canadian Farmers’ Almanac, which is always tough to figure out, looks to be calling for near-average conditions in March as it calls for fair conditions several times. April also looks to be “fair” with possibly a warm end to the month. May looks to be a little more unsettled, with hot weather moving in during the last week of the month.
Over at Environment Canada, forecasters are calling for above-average temperatures all spring long with near-average amounts of precipitation for most regions. Extreme western regions may see below-average amounts of precipitation, with northeastern regions of Alberta having the best chance of seeing above-average amounts this spring. Environment Canada’s American counterparts, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is calling for above-average temperatures and below-average amounts of precipitation for all three spring months.
Last, but not least, my spring forecast.
As I already stated above, I am leaning towards AccuWeather’s forecast. All the pieces are in place so far for a really warm spring, but the big question is whether or not the mild air will win out over the colder air that is forecasted to be in place over northeastern regions of Canada. So far this winter Alberta has missed out, or only caught glancing blows from any of this cold air and I don’t see any change in this pattern. I’ll also go with its call for below-average precipitation. As usual, only time will tell.