January 19, 2010 — With winter at the half-way point, Canadians, particularly in Western Canada, are wondering what happened to the expected El Niño winter. The new updated outlook sees a trend towards above normal temperatures to round out the season in Western Canada, while conditions are expected to remain near normal for Eastern Canada.
In December, temperatures west of the Red River had fallen to bone chilling levels at times. In Edmonton on December 13th, the temperature at one point dropped to below -46ºC at the international airport, with an even colder wind chill.
The pattern of the jet stream - a river of air 10 km above the earth, which generally separates mild air to the south and colder arctic air to the north - in the early part of the winter formed a large dip or trough. This kept the warmer Pacific air further south and allowed cold Arctic air to flow into Western Canada. The pattern of the jet stream has now shifted to allow for warmer Pacific air to reach into Western Canada and at times into Ontario and Quebec.
El Niño: Not Always Typical Weather Patterns
El Niño, which is a warming of the central and eastern equatorial Pacific waters, is still a factor in our weather patterns. It will be peaking this month, with the greatest impact felt across Western Canada, particularly west of the Red River. For the remainder of the winter a more typical El Niño-influenced pattern is forecast to persist.
'We usually associate El Niño with above normal temperatures in Western Canada, but it’s not that unusual to see intense cold snaps during an El Niño year,' said Chris Scott, Forecast Operations Manager with The Weather Network. 'In some areas of the world, cooler temperatures are more likely during an El Niño year. We saw that in the Southeast United States with freezing temperatures and even flurries well south into Florida.'
Western Canada Outlook
The above normal temperatures often associated with El Niño in Western Canada are more likely during the second half of the winter. Below normal precipitation is expected across parts of British Columbia and near normal precipitation across most of the Prairie Provinces.
Eastern Canada Outlook
Eastern Canada is shaping up to round out the remainder of the winter with typical weather for January and February, meaning that residents shouldn’t put away their hats and scarves just yet. Mild Pacific air may extend into Ontario and Quebec from time to time; however, the possibility still exists for significant winter storms to affect regions from Ontario to Newfoundland.