Winter is dead — at least officially.
Friday was the first day of the spring equinox. But that doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of more snow and cold temperatures. This is Alberta, after all.
However, as far as the winter of 2014-15 is concerned, Red Deer and area weather warriors didn’t face much of a battle. It was more like a small skirmish in the grand scheme of Canadian winter.
Regional meteorologist Bill McMurtry said on Friday that we had it pretty nice for a long time this winter. “The winter that wasn’t.”
Since the beginning of December, winter temperatures have been quite a bit above normal, with the exception of February, which was “bang-on normal,” said McMurtry.
December was about 2.8C above normal for the month, January was 3.1 above normal, February was just below normal by 0.1 degrees, and March so far has been about 2.9 degrees above seasonal values.
So for the entire period to date, over about three and half months, temperatures have been about 2.2 degrees above average. “That’s a pretty significant departure from normal,” McMurtry said.
The winter’s average temperature is -8.2C. “We’ve had warmer. In fact, just recently we’ve have had a warmer December, January, February, and that occurred in the winter of 2011-2012, where the average temperature was -7.6C for that time period.”
The warmest winter of record for Red Deer occurred in 1986-87, where the average temperature was -5.5C, so Red Deer is still quite a ways from that. “Still, it’s been fairly warm and significantly warmer than average,” McMurtry said.
The warmest temperature since Dec. 1 was 14.9C, on March 14, and the coldest was on Jan. 4, when the overnight low hit -32.2C. There was only one other day the thermometer went below -30C during the entire winter and that was Feb. 3 at -30.4C.
There have only been two days below -30C in that time period and normally there are eight, said McMurtry.
While temperature stands out, precipitation doesn’t so much.
“Since Dec. 1, Red Deer has received about 60 cm of snow and normally we would see 66 cm.”
January was quite snowy as Red Deer had close to 34 cm — the average for that month is just under 19 cm.
December and March, so far, were quite dry.
Looking ahead to spring, “In most cases what’s happened in the past really isn’t an indication of what’s going to happen in the near future with the exception of sometimes when we have a very wet spring, that can lead to a very active summer severe weather season.”
The long-range forecast for the Red Deer area is not really showing much about whether it will be above or below normal, he said.
“Right now, it’s showing perhaps slightly below normal temperatures for the March, April, May time period,” according to a forecast generated at the beginning of March.
But the further west one goes, the more confident the forecast is, McMurtry said.
“Vancouver Island is expected to be well above normal temperatures there. As for our area … south of Red Deer is showing slightly below normal, and Red Deer, Edmonton are showing more like seasonal temperatures.”