Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Can we beat record for heat? That's no sweat

Warmest 12-month period in the last 140 years

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IT'S a record, folks. A hot, balmy, humid record.

According to David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada, Winnipeg has just set a record for the warmest 12-month period since weather records began being kept in the city 140 years ago.

From Aug. 1, 2011 to July 31, 2012, Winnipeg had an average temperature of 6 C, shattering the record of 5.6 C that stood since 1877.

"I looked at every combination of 12 months from September through August, January to December, March through to February. There never has been a warmer 12 months in your recorded history," Phillips said.

"It really does show you what a remarkable year you had."

Phillips also points out 6 C is much warmer than Winnipeg's median temperature of 2.6 C for a similar 12-month period.

"To see something that's almost 31/2 degrees warmer than normal for the whole year is quite something," Phillips said.

He found Winnipeg temperatures soared above 30 C during 14 days in July, a record only out-scorched by July 2006's record of 16 days.

It seems we're feeling a lot of hot air coming from more southern climes.

Phillips said patterns for that 12-month period showed an increase in jet streams from the south and far less frigid air from the north.

"Clearly what we're seeing is a lot more of the weather from the south and west, and less from the north. Arctic air is missing in action," Phillips said.

But the change could be a permanent one, said Dr. Danny Blair, the associate dean of science and director of the Climate Studies Institute at the University of Winnipeg.

"It's becoming very hard to not conclude that global warming is decidedly here, especially with the extreme events and the record runs like the one we've just experienced," said Blair.

"The averages are changing. We're still going to get some cold weather. We're always going to have ups and downs forever. But the probability of having really warm weather is much greater than it has been in the past."

Blair said weather patterns are largely determined by jet streams -- and these streams are affected when the patterns of the Earth's surface change.

"If the Earth's surface is different than it used to be, our weather systems are going to be different. And it all comes back to greenhouse-gas emissions," he said.

Blair pointed out the summer heat isn't the main reason we set a 12-month temperature record.

The key factor was our mild winter.

"Winnipeg has the nickname of 'Winterpeg.' We're going to lose that," he said.

"Winters have already changed enormously over the last 30 or 40 years. The patterns we've been seeing aren't the same as our parents and grandparents grew up with on the Prairies.

"We are relatively quickly losing the kind of winters that we're famous for. Winter is the season that has changed the most. The summers have lagged behind the most. They still are getting warmer, but not at the same rate as our winters."

katherine.dow@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 9, 2012 B1

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