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January warmer and drier than normal in Red Deer

Seasonal forecast suggests trend continuing

Winter. Forty-three days down, 47 more to go.

Central Alberta is approaching the mid-mark of winter, and so far, earlier forecasts that suggested a cold and snowy winter haven’t really materialized.

In fact, said Environment Canada meteorologist Kirk Torneby, January was a drier and warmer than normal for Red Deer.

The month started off with a cold spell with temperatures plunging on Jan. 5, and not warming up again until Jan. 13. Since then it’s been well above normal, he said.

Looking at January as a whole, Red Deer’s average temperature for January was -10.1 C. Normal is -11.6C, so January was on the warmer side overall — the 24th warmest January ever recorded, dating back to 1909. “So, notably warm,” he said.

Last year the average Red Deer temperature in January was -10.8, actually a little bit cooler than this year. The coldest day was Jan. 10 when it dipped to -27.4C. About a week later though the warmest temperature of the month was reached on Jan. 18 when the high was 9.7C.

As for moisture, January was a dry month. The total was right on par with last year, with 6.6 mm of water equivalent recorded for Red Deer. “It was a really dry month. It was the 15th driest January on record,” Torneby said.

Snow depth on the ground at the end of January was only four cm at the Red Deer weather station, which is located at Red Deer Airport. The 30-year normal is 14 cm, he said.

“It’s significantly below normal.” But that could all change as usually the biggest snowfalls in Alberta occur in October and November, and March and April. The coldest months don’t tend to have a lot of snow because cold air can’t hold a lot of water.

All of Alberta was really dry for most of January, said Torneby.

Looking ahead, he said this year has been tricky to forecast because there are no big drivers such as El Ninos to lead to cold or warm conditions.

Seasonal forecasts for February and March are showing a 40 to 50 per cent probability of above normal conditions for Red Deer and the rest of the southern prairies. The first day of spring is March 20.

barr@reddeeradvocate.com