Winter to give way to warm, dry spring

Photo courtesy AccuWeather

After a long, bitter winter, Saskatchewan residents can expect a smooth, mid-April transition into a warmer-than-normal spring.

That’s what the outlook is according to Accuweather, and its long-term forecasters.

Unlike last year, where spring-like temperatures were late and sudden, this year’s warmer weather shouldn’t come as a sudden shock.

“In April last year, especially in late March and early April, it was pretty brutal across Saskatchewan,” said Max Vido, a long-range meteorologist at Accuweather.

“Temperatures for a two-week stretch from the 28th of March through the 13th of April were consistently … below normal in that timeframe. This year, we’re actually expecting slightly above-normal temperatures averaged out through that timeframe. People are going to feel like it’s a more sensible transition to spring.”

The above-average temperatures are expected to continue, on average, throughout the entire spring. But first, residents have to brave some more cold through the first half of March.

“As we get into the second half of the month, I think we’re going to see more above-normal temperatures spreading across the prairies, and then by the time we get to April, I think that’s going to be the general pattern for April and May, warner-than-normal temperatures across much of western Canada, extending into the prairies.

According to Vido, April will bring some “more impressive warm-ups” and more spring-like air. 

Last year’s late and sudden thaw left fields frozen and then flooded, leading some agricultural producers to have to delay seeding. This year, though, producers are expected to see a different problem.

“There’s drought that’s ongoing across the region around Regina and Saskatoon. There are areas of moderate-to-severe drought. We are a little bit concerned that this could expand a little bit during the spring months, especially south and west towards Alberta,” Vido said.

A map provided by Accuweather showed the drought coming up to an area south of Prince Albert. That’s also a problem because while Prince Albert saw a decent snowpack this winter, parts of the province to the south have had a lack of precipitation. The Water Security Agency (WSA) has predicted less-than-normal runoff in the spring. Combined with a continued lack of rain, that spells trouble for farmers in the south, who have been dealing with drought conditions since 2017.

“Certainly there could be some stress for the farmers because we’re not really looking at a signal for particularly wet weather in this area,” Vido said.

While some flooding, may occur, especially with projected rapid snowmelt along the Red River in southern Manitoba, Accuweather said there isn’t a strong likelihood of above-normal flooding in Saskatchewan this spring. That’s also consistent with the WSA’s early projections.

The cause of these weather patterns, Vido said, is the El Nino, a band of warm ocean water that irregularly cycles in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific. The El Nino leads to above-normal sea temperatures, and when that happens, typically a straight and southern et stream forms.

According to Vido, that leads to heavy precipitation and cooler weather across the US, but for north and northwestern Canada, including the prairies, the weather becomes dominated by a weaker northern jet stream, bringing milder, drier air across the region.

“Usually, this is a correlation strongest during the winter and spring months,” Vido said.

‘We see that controlling the pattern this year for the Canadian prairies.”