Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Frigid January not near records

Cold persistent, not bitter: expert

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Winnipeg has already had 104 centimetres of snow since November, with more inevitably to come during this persistently cold winter.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Winnipeg has already had 104 centimetres of snow since November, with more inevitably to come during this persistently cold winter. Photo Store

It's so cold, your shadow will freeze to the ground.

OK, that's bad. And also, not original.

While you're not laughing at that, here are some fun facts from Environment Canada that will freeze that grimace to your face.

Dale Marciski, an Environment Canada meteorologist based in Winnipeg, said there have been 12 days in January in which the temperature has been below -30 C.

The mean temperature for January so far is -20.0 C (calculated by taking the average of all the highs and lows) while the normal is -16.4 C.

"Normally, January would be our coldest month of the year, so we are still running 31/2 degrees colder than normal for January," said Marciski. "This is not anywhere near records. We have many, many Januarys colder than this. We're going to be way down the list for coldest Januarys. That is good news, in a strange sort of way."

This follows the second-coldest December in 120 years, based on the mean temperature of -20.9 C. There were nine days in which the temperature was below -30 C.

"December was an extremely cold month. December was 7.7 degrees colder than normal," said Marciski. "It ended up being the sixth coldest in 141 years of records for Winnipeg."

The coldest was -37.9 C on Dec. 31. That morning, it felt like -48 with the wind chill.

Marciski said January's weather has also featured some extreme temperature fluctuations.

"What we had was really cold days, you'd get some very strong winds that would blow in some mild air for a day or two and then it would be back to being really cold, so you'd have these incredible swings," he said, noting on Jan. 15 it was -27.4 C in the morning and 3.3 C by early evening. "We don't have any statistics on how usual that is but I can say anecdotally that's quite an unusual event."

The coldest day of this month, so far, was Jan. 5 at -38 C. With the wind chill, it felt like -51 that day.

"That was a day where even in the afternoon, the temperature didn't warm up above -30. The high temperature for that day was -30.2. That was the first time in 10 years where we had a high temperature of -30 C," Marciski said.

It may seem like it is unusually bitter, but Marciski said it's just "persistent."

"We've had this cold Arctic air pulled down from the north, there's sort of a northerly circulation in the upper atmosphere and it's just continuous. We get this every year, but this has just been incredibly persistent over us," he said.

"A more typical winter would be that this northerly circulation would last for a week, maybe two. It would go away for a while and we'd get more westerly or southwesterly winds that would warm up for a while and the north winds would come back. This has been very, very persistent."

He said the polar vortex, or Arctic vortex, that has been talked about as being at fault for all the cold is actually a permanent feature over the Arctic.

"There's this area where it's sort of an upper low-pressure system where the coldest air is situated and it's up over the Arctic most of the time," he said. "Sometimes it drops down a little farther south and brings colder air into the Prairies and parts of Canada and sometimes farther south. That's why it's allowed a lot of this cold Arctic air to slide down across a lot of North America, not just Manitoba."

Marciski said it was snowing near the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday night.

If it feels like shovelling snow is your new hobby, it just may be.

The snowfall so far is 104 centimetres from November to now, which is "well above normal," Marciski said, and is approaching last winter's total of 170 centimetres.

What about the trade-off? A cold, snow-packed winter will bring us a balmy summer?

"It's too soon to say yet, but a cold winter doesn't necessarily mean we're going to get a good summer," Marciski said. "They operate independently, so we're going to have to wait and see on that one."

Any good news? Toss us a scrap.

"The weather from now into the first few days of next week is generally sunny and dry," he said, noting the normal high is -11 C and normal low is -22 C. "Temperatures are staying cooler than normal, the -16 C to the -19 C range and lows in the -22 C to -25 C range, but there's no big storms coming this way."

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 30, 2014 A7

History

Updated on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 8:41 AM CST: Corrects that the mean temperature for January so far is -20.0 C

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