2016 a year of wild fluctuations

Central Alberta weather teased and tortured in 2016.

Unusually warm conditions in February were welcomed by those happy to see winter shortened.

They weren’t cheering the mild winter at Bentley’s Medicine Lodge Ski Area. The nine-run ski hill about 10 km west of the town still didn’t have enough snow in mid-February to open and show off a new run added the previous fall.

In Red Deer, February was so warm that outdoor ice rinks melted weeks ahead of schedule.

Red Deer’s average February temperature was -5.2 C while the normal for the month is -9.1 C. Calgary had its second warmest February ever recorded.

The unusually warm weather had its downsides.

For the fourth year in a row, the Rocky Mountain House Forest Protection Area started up its wildfire preparations a month early. By mid-March, crews were already called in to put out a two-acre fire.

The warmer-than-usual temperatures continued through March, which went into the books as the fourth warmest on record for Red Deer.

Temperatures were almost five degrees above normal. The average temperature for the month was 0.9 C. The normal for Red Deer is -3.7 C.

The warmest March on record was in 1992 with the average temperature being 2.1 C .

The highest temperature recorded in March at the Red Deer Airport was 13 C on March 30 and the lowest daytime high for the month was only -2.2 C on March 22.

But the warm, dry spring had the City of Red Deer urging water conservation because the Red Deer River’s level was well below average and expected to remain low.

On Canada Day, a small twister did some damage in Ponoka.

Overall, July proved a stormy and soggy month in Red Deer, the 19th wettest on record.

Environment Canada said 120.8 mm of rain fell during the month, compared with a 30-year average of 94.4 mm.

May saw 55.6 mm of rain at the Red Deer Airport — normal is 55.4mm. In June, a total of 59.6 mm of rain fell, well below the normal 94mm. Normal numbers are based on weather data collected from 1981 to 2010.

The big weather story of the late summer and early fall was in agriculture.

Many farmers saw a potential bumper year wilt as unco-operative weather stymied harvesting.

Harry Brook, a crop specialist at Stettler’s Alberta Ag-Info Centre, called the fall a “frustrating disappointment” for many producers.

“We had big crops that were looking great, and then the weather turned to crap,” he said in mid-November.

A wet September delayed harvesting only to see temperatures plunge and the snow fly in October. Farmers were scrambling in a mild November to get the last of their crops off.

November has offered a number of days well above zero Celsius, and the record being broken on Tuesday (Nov. 8). The warmest day of the month so far, a fall day turned into a summer day with a high of 22.6C. The previous record was set in 1961 at 13.9C.

Other records set in 2016 were: April 18, highest temperature, 24.8C; May 3, highest temperature, 27.9C; June 7, lowest temperature, -0.7C.

December was another month of wild fluctuations.

Temperatures yo-yoed between too cold, or unusually warm— setting the pattern for what could be the rest of the winter, said Environment Canada.

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