Spring forecast: Cool and wet to continue

Talk about a strange winter. Last month was the coldest February since 1994. Iqaluit in Nunavut was warmer than Toronto in January. Parts of the U.S. Midwest and eastern Canada have had 400 per cent more snow.

According to Roger Pannett, volunteer weather observer for Environment Canada, that bitterly cold Arctic ridge during the last week of February dropped temperatures to -10.0oC (11.5oC below normal) on February 25th , the coldest February temperature in 21 years. But with those strong outflow blasts, the wind chill in the Chilliwack area was a frigid -22oC.

With La Nina building last fall, there were dire predictions we would have the coldest, snowiest winter in 50 years. But we ended up book-ending the late fall/ winter season with only two real winter months: November (the coldest in seven years with mean temperatures 1.53oC below normal) and February. Wet and mild defined December and January with January 16th recording a record breaking 12.8oC (9.2oC above normal).

Speaking of records, this winter has been another of extremes. Some parts of the U.S. Midwest and eastern Canada are bracing for spring floods after all that snow. And the Inuit folks are still scratching their heads about their strange winter.  At New Year’s, Iqaluit’s temperature was 0oC, 22 degrees above normal. Toronto was -2oC.

“During the first week of January schools were closed up north because of too much rain,” said David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada. “In Iqaluit, their New Year’s celebration is usually fireworks on the ice. This year it was on a barge in open water. Their snowmobile parade was cancelled because of balmy conditions. It was just so weird, so upside down and beyond being a novelty. It was serious for the people in terms of hunting and fishing and the threats to their safety (from unstable ice).”

And there are ominous warning signs in those mild Arctic conditions.

“There’s a real big scratch-your-head in the scientific circle going on in terms of this extreme, strange weather,” explained Phillips. “Scientists are wondering if it’s because of vanishing Arctic ice. All this strange weather seems to be traced back to that.”

He explained that Arctic ice is one of the major climate controls. The ice is the world’s refrigerator, keeping the whole global system in balance.

It’s a major force but with the ice melting and the prospect of the north becoming ice-free, ocean patterns will profoundly change.

“(Climate change) naysayers may ask what happened to global warming,” said Phillips. “We’re seeing more snow, ice, cold. But more wintery conditions may be because of climate change and the opening Arctic. During the Ice Age we had glaciers that covered most of Canada and it was when the Arctic was open. The climate-ocean system is very complex.”

Not only is the annual ice disappearing but the thick multi-year ice is thinning and breaking.

One statistic shows that multi-year ice represents about 19 per cent of the ice in the north. Thirty years ago it represented 90 per cent. Phillips predicts it could be gone in 20 to 30 years.

The Arctic may be remote but its effects could be anything but. Melting ice and open water could be the driver behind severe storms impacting crop production leading to food shortages and the current escalating prices.

According to Phillips, long range weather predictions for this spring are that it will be cooler and wetter than normal.

“This La Nina is very strong and it has carried on longer than normal,” said Phillips. “It’s still a force so spring will be delayed. But our indications for summer show that June, July and August will be warmer and dryer than normal.”

Just Posted

Watercolours by late Chilliwack artist to be unveiled at Yarrow Library

The public is invited to a special unveiling of three of Heinz Klassen’s watercolour paintings

Yarrow Library one of the stops on Cubetto’s grand tour

FVRL’s friendly wooden robot, Cubetto, travels throughout Fraser Valley to teach programming basics

No home for Agassiz Community Garden on school district land

The garden is still homeless after SD78 said no to the society using the McCaffrey School property

Chilliwack PEO: ‘We who are sisters’

International oganization celebrating 150 years of service

Chilliwack students take the lead as mental health advocates

About 100 Chilliwack youth prepped to make a difference during Mental Health Week

Dashcam captures close call between minivan, taxi at busy Vancouver intersection

To make the footage more nerve-wracking, a pedestrian can be seen standing at the corner

B.C. fire department rescues kittens

Enderby homeowner not aware kittens in wood pile near garbage pile fire that got out of hand

RCMP looking for witnesses to four-vehicle crash in Burnaby

Police suspect impaired driving was a contributing factor

QUIZ: How much do you know about Easter?

Take this short quiz and put your knowledge to the test

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

Global Affairs warns Canadians in Sri Lanka there could be more attacks

A series of bomb blasts killed at least 207 people and injured hundreds more

VIDEO: Fan support almost deafening as Giants take Game 2 in finals

Vancouver G-Men cap comeback with thrilling third period to beat Spokane 4-2 on home ice in Langley

Waste not: Kootenay brewery leftovers feed the local food chain

Spent grains from the Trail Beer Refinery are donated to local farmers and growers, none go to waste

Most Read