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Prairies’ seventh warmest summer since ‘49 recorded

If Canadians love anything, it’s talking about the weather.

So let’s take a walk down the meteorological memory lane and look back at 2012.

Canada-wide, last year ranked among the 10 warmest summers since 1948 in all but one of the country’s climate regions.

The Prairies, which includes Red Deer, ranked seventh warmest.

It was also wetter than normal across the country (four per cent above the 1961-90 normal).

Here in Central Alberta, last year started off warmer than normal, but we paid for it in the fall.

Daytime highs were above average for the first four months of 2012, Environment Canada Red Deer records show.

A rainy spring and early summer then gave way to about 10 weeks of glorious weather. But by late October, the honeymoon was over. The daytime high dipped below 0C on Oct. 21 and stubbornly stayed below freezing for the rest of the month, leaving trick or treaters bundling up for Halloween. The third week of October saw the first major snowfalls of the season as well.

“So that’s when your winter started,” said Environment Canada meteorologist John McIntyre.

The last three months of the year stayed mostly colder and snowier than usual.

Overall in 2012, Central Alberta produced its usual grab bag of meteorological tricks, but produced little for the record books.

A Jan. 4 high of 10.2C matched the record high for that day but fell short of the record for the warmest January day on record, 10.9C set on Jan. 11, 1987.

The coldest day of the winter, -34.6C on Jan. 18, never came close to the -45C record set in 1950, although it did prompt an Environment Canada cold weather warning, thanks to a windchill of -45C.

Likewise, a big 20-cm dump of snow on March 9 created the usual road mayhem but set no record.

March was a case of good news, bad news. Average daytime highs of -2.1C were two degrees better than normal. However, the 41 cm of snow that fell on the city for the month was well above the 18-cm average.

The wet spring continued into April with 44 mm of precipitation compared with the 22.6-mm average. May rainfalls were also above average, as were those in June, which is typically the rainiest month with average rainfalls of 92.1 mm.

“Farmers like that. If they don’t get those June rains, they’re in trouble,” said McIntyre.

Summer produced some scorchers, but again nothing for the record books. Red Deer came closest on July 8 when the mercury rose to 29.1C, just shy of the 29.4C benchmark set in 1964. The following day, the temperature broke through the 30C mark, hitting a high of 31C, although still nearly three degrees short of the 1968 record.

There was also the usual assortment of severe thunderstorms producing twisters and tornadoes. In June, a tornado tossed around cattle sheds east of Bashaw and in July, small tornadoes were reported on different days south of Olds and in Endiang, near Stettler.

July was also much wetter than usual with 123.4 mm of rain, compared with the 93.1-mm average.

August proved a little hotter and slightly drier than normal with no fewer than 13 days where highs topped 25C.

The heat wave continued into September. That month, temperatures averaged 21C, nearly four degrees higher than normal, and on Sept. 9, the city basked in a 27.7C day.

But it came to an end in October, when the average high was nowhere near normal at 6.3C, versus the 11.4C average.

November, with an average high of -2.5C, was colder than the 0.4C average and slightly snowier. There was less snow in December, but temperatures remained below average.

So, what’s in store for 2013?

McIntyre said long-term projections are calling for normal temperatures and precipitation through the first half of this year for the entire Prairie region, including Red Deer.

“We’re kind of in a neutral position here. So, it should be a nice, good spring coming up. There’s nothing outlandish going on there.”

A hotter and drier summer than normal is projected, although be warned: long-term forecasts are notoriously difficult to nail down.

And even if the trend to above-normal temperatures occurs, it doesn’t mean every day will be a beach day.

“There’s three months (of summer), so if you say above normal there’s still going to be below-normal days in it,” he said.

But here’s to hope.



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