Expect a warmer than usual Christmas: Environment Canada

Bailey Sutherland/Daily Herald The Prince Albert Children's Choir leads the crowd with Christmas carols during the Tree Lighting Ceremony outside City Hall on December 5, 2023. The choir was one of many attractions as residents flocked downtown for the ceremony.

Most of Saskatchewan will get a white Christmas, but it won’t feel like it for the majority of the population.

The province is experiencing some of the warmest winter temperatures seen in this part of the world over the past decade. However, Environment Canada meteorologist Terri Lang said more than half the province will have at least 2 cm of snow on the ground come Christmas Day, but most residents won’t be there to witness it.

“It’s probably about 60-40, like 60 per cent white (Christmas) and 40 per cent brown,” Lang said during a phone interview on Thursday. “The thing is, most of the population lives in the brown areas.”

Lang said Nipawin, Hudson Bay, and Waskesiu will all have snow on the ground on Monday. The southeast corner of the province will also get a white Christmas after getting hit by a storm a few weeks ago. Some higher elevations in Cypress Hills also have snow. However, the central and north central parts of the province will likely be warm and dry on Dec. 25.

“It’s certainly unusual to not have snow on the ground, especially through the Central Part of the province this late in the year,” Lang said. “But it is consistent with a strong El Nino pattern.”

Lang said the last three Saskatchewan winters have been La Nina winters, which typically means freezing temperatures in Prince Albert. However, this year Saskatchewan fell under an El Nino weather pattern, which pushed the jet stream north of Prince Albert. That’s resulted in unusually warm and dry weather, while areas like Nunavut and the Northwest Territories get battered with storms.

The first big snowstorm of the season knocked out power for every resident in the community of Arviat, Nunavut on Nov. 21. The storm left families without power for four days, reduced visibility to zero, and forced local officials to declare a state of emergency. In Prince Albert, meanwhile, the temperature on Nov. 21 rose as high at -0.6 C.

Prince Albert recorded seven days in December where the average temperature was above 0 C. Things got colder in December, but the average temperature still managed to rise just above 0 C on Dec. 7.

Environment Canada has forecasted a sunny Christmas Day for Prince Albert, with an expected high of -3 C, and a low of -10 C.

Although Prince Albert residents can expect warmer than average temperatures for the rest of the winter, Lang said there will still be days of severe cold, and residents need to be prepared for it.

“It (El Nino) doesn’t mean that it won’t get cold. It doesn’t mean that it won’t snow. It just means that on average, when you add everything up at the end of the winter, it usually comes out warmer and drier than average,” Lang explained. “This is a strong El Nino event, so it’s highly likely that it’ll be warmer and drier than average. When you say that, some people think it’s going to be like this the whole winter. No, (it’s) just on average.”

Lang added that Saskatchewan has experienced warm winters like this before, although they are rare.

“The last really big one that sticks out for older generations like myself was the ’97-98 Christmas time winter,” she said. “That was a really warm and dry winter as well, and that was a really strong El Nino event.”