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The Top Five Weather Stories Of 2009

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Daniel Bezte has a special interest in farm weather, which he follows from a small farm near Winnipeg, where he has his own computerized weather station. He has been a regular contributor to other farm publications including the Farmers’ Independent Weekly and the Manitoba Co-operator. Daniel has a degree in geography, specializing in climatology, from the University of Winnipeg.

He welcomes questions and comments at [email protected]

I hope everyone had a great holiday season. There are a number of different topics we could kick off our new year with. We could get back to weather school – heck I’m having trouble remembering where we left off! We could take a look ahead to see what the weather prognosticators are thinking our weather will be like for 2010 – not a bad idea. Before we take a look at that, however, I think it would be appropriate to take a look back and review the five main weather stories of 2009.

The good folks over at Environment Canada have already come up with their list of top weather stories from the past year, and after reading through them I have to admit they did a pretty good job hitting the main stories, but I don’t necessarily agree with the order. So, here’s what I see as the top five weather highlights from last year.

The first interesting point about the weather in 2009 (but not one of the top five stories) is how statistics can hide or mask things. For example, if we take the average weather conditions for 2009 across Canada, it ends up that most regions had temperatures that were within 0.5 C of average. The same goes for precipitation. Looking at regions across Canada they all came within five per cent of the average yearly total precipitation. So, all-in-all, I guess it was an average year this year – yeah right!

The number one weather story according to Environment Canada, and I think pretty much everyone else, was the cold miserable summer in most of central and Eastern Canada. The summer of 2009 turned out to be one of the coldest on record for these regions. Alberta was just on the edge of this cold weather, with central and northern regions seeing cooler-than-average conditions, while southern regions saw near-to even a little aboveaverage conditions.

When we look at the bigger picture, while the eastern Prairies, Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces were experiencing cold wet summer weather, southern Alberta, B.C., and northern Canada had a milder-than-average summer. In fact, northern Canada experienced its warmest summer on record and that contributed to Canada’s experiencing her 13th year in a row with above-average temperatures.

Looking at global temperatures, 2009 looks like it will come in around the fifth warmest year on record and the last 10 years look to be the warmest decade on record. We will take a deeper look into this in upcoming issues.


The second-biggest weather story for our region in 2009, in my opinion, was the absolute miserable May long weekend weather. After a fairly nice start to the weekend, cold air and snow moved in, and by Monday morning, according to Environment Canada, Edmonton had six cm of snow on the ground while areas near Hinton received 18 to 30 cm!

My third weather pick for 2009 was the 10th-biggest story according to Environment Canada, and it was the record-breaking warm temperatures in September. After the mediocre to bad summer weather we finally saw summer-like temperatures move in at the end of August and they stuck around until almost the end of September. Most regions saw several daytime high records fall during the month. Edmonton saw the hottest day of 2009 during September, while Calgary experienced its hottest fall day ever.

The fourth-biggest weather story of 2009 follows up on September’s record warmth with November’s heat wave. After temperatures plummeted to well below average in October most people were wondering just how bad this winter was going to be. November started off around average, but after that it never seemed to want to cool down. We saw day after day of well aboveaverage temperatures with little or no snow. By the end of the month most places had come in nearly 5 C above average. In fact, Calgary’s average monthly temperature for November was 0.4 C warmer than October’s – not a bad start to winter.

Finally, my fifth-biggest weather story of 2009 would have to be the continued retreat or melt of Arctic sea ice. I will go into this story in more detail in upcoming issues, but 2009 saw the Arctic sea ice drop to its third-lowest level on record. What makes this story even more interesting is the recent finding that what has been presumed to be thick multiyear ice by satellite readings is, in some places, actually rotten ice on the verge of disintegrating. If this drop in sea ice continues I believe this will be the biggest weather story of the decade and possibly even the century.



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