Temperature records broken in Manitoba throughout the winter: ECCC

If the months of December to February felt warmer than usual to Manitobans, they would be right and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) has the data to back it up.

December to February is known as the meteorological winter and the 2023-24 version saw some areas of the province set new records for the warmest ever, while in Winnipeg, it was the second warmest ever.

The warmest winter came all the way back in 1877-78.

“The season mean for this period was minus 8.1…the normal is minus 14.3, giving us a departure from normal of 6.2. So that’s pretty significant,” said Natalie Hasell, a warning preparedness meteorologist with ECCC.

According to ECCC, eight spots in the province set records for their warmest meteorological winter, while another four – including Winnipeg – marked the second warmest ever.

The weather agency also noted there were 150 daytime high records over the three months and only two recorded cold snaps.

Hasell said there are a few factors that lead to these balmy temperatures, including climate change and the current El Nino conditions.

“El Nino is the warm phase in the Pacific (Ocean) at the equator. It’s also the warm phase for us. We care about what happens in the Pacific because, in this case, it actually changes the weather we see here. It pushes the jet streams further north.”

When the jet stream moves further north, Hasell said it also means the warmer weather comes with it.

She mentioned the warmer weather also brought drier conditions, especially in Winnipeg.

“We got 21.3 millimetres of liquid equivalent. So whatever fell as rain is measured as rain, whatever fell as snow is melted and we measure that. The normal for this time of year is 55.2. So we were at 39 per cent of the amount of precipitation that we would normally see.”

While these El Nino conditions are set to stick around for the next month or so, Hasell said they likely won’t have an impact on what the spring and summer look like.

“So the transition from El Nino to ENSO-neutral is likely by April-June (with a) 79 per cent chance, increasing odds to La Nina (in) June-August (with a) 55 per cent chance,” said Hasell, noting this is the most recent information from the Climate Prediction Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the United States.

In the meantime, Hasell said people should expect some variability in the forecast over the next few weeks, as a freeze-thaw cycle hits, but a cold air system is expected to hit the province by the weekend, bringing an extended dip in the forecast.

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