Slightly warmer winter predicted thanks to El Nino

Slightly warmer winter predicted thanks to El Nino
Rustys Winter Outlook
Thanks to El Nino its likely to be slightly milder winter in the coming months in comparison to the never-ending cold spell of the previous one that dragged well into the spring months, says a senior climatologist with Environment Canada.

Pedestrians walk along Sunset Avenue on the University of Windsor campus during a winter storm on March 13, 2017. Dax Melmer / Windsor Star

Thanks to El Nino it’s likely to be a slightly milder winter in the coming months in comparison to the never-ending cold spell of the previous one that dragged well into the spring months, says a senior climatologist with Environment Canada.

“There is always some uncertainty, but my sense is it will not be as cold, as snowy or as long as last year,” said longtime weather expert David Phillips, originally from Windsor.

The prolonged winters of the last two years were due to La Nina, he said.  The weather pattern is associated with cooler than average sea surface temperatures predominately in the Pacific Ocean which brings cooler weather in our direction.

“This will be an El Nino year,” Phillips said. “It means a milder than normal. Winter tends to be a long season in Windsor, so many people may be happier this year when we get to cheat the weather a bit.”

But it’s showing like it will be a “moderate” form of the La Nina weather pattern, he said.

David Phillips, senior climatologist at Environment Canada, is shown at Windsors Holy Names High School on March 27, 2018, where he introduced the Climate Crusaders program. Dan Janisse / Windsor Star

“What that means is (warmth in the winter) won’t be with us every day, week after week,” Phillips said. “But it’s a statistical forecast where we say warmer than normal. There will still be moments when you wish you were somewhere else.

“It’s still a little bit uncertain. It’s leaning to milder than normal. You can probably bet a loonie or two on this, but I would not wager the family farm.”

For December, January and February, the overall average temperature in Windsor for those three months in mid-afternoon would be zero celsius, while the nighttime lows on average are about -4C, Phillips said.

The average winter snowfall for the local area is 129 centimetres. Last winter, there was a total of 154 cm of snow in the Windsor area.

The only month last winter in Windsor where average temperatures reached normal was February, Phillips said. Every other month was at least one degree celsius or more colder on average

“From Halloween until the end of April, you were seeing snow or freezing rain,” Phillips said. “It was not warming up. This year, you won’t see that.

“You will see some cold times for snowmobiling, a bit of ice fishing. But there will be melting periods in January and February with March feeling more spring-like this year. My sense is that is how winter will play out.”

This year, it appears we are trending towards a weak to moderate El Nino over the winter months. That means warmer than average waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean impacting how our weather plays out in the winter months. Not every El Nino winter is the same though.

The trend for El Nino winters is to give us a slightly warmer than average winter as a whole. That isnt necessarily the case every winter but it happens more often than not. That is how NOAA sees our the winter playing out in our area. Well still get cold snaps like we get every winter but average temperatures over the 3 month stretch have a greater than average chance at being warmer than average.

Unfortunately El Nino doesnt say a lot about precipitation in our area so we have to do a little digging. After checking into winters past and finding some similar fall setups, here is how I see the winter playing out in our area.

December – Warmer than average. Well still get cold snap but most of the month will be mild. Well likely end up with more rain than snow in this month as well.

January – Temperatures will likely be near average with cold snaps becoming more frequent. Winter essentially takes a while to get going. This is when well start to see more snow. I see most of our snow happening after the first of the year.

February – Likely to be a colder than average month with stronger bouts of arctic air. Again, most of the snow likely happens in January and February. I expect at least one impact snow in March as well.

Overall, the best odds for snow totals tend to lie in the average or just above average range. With average being 26-32″ across the metro, I think the best odds line up for us to be in the 32-40″ snowfall range for the entire season.

Thats a lot to digest but overall I think the coldest days with the most snow happen after the the first of the year and we end up with above average snowfall. This would be the first time since 2012-13 with more than 30″ of snow for the season.