Weather that seems to defy predictions

Up until Christmas day in Chilliwack, it was the driest December since 1914.

If the weather seems decidedly odd, we’re not alone. Canadians are enjoying balmy temperatures on the east coast, double digit temperatures in Calgary, and no snow in Saskatchewan.

Go figure that one.

Up until Christmas day in Chilliwack, it was the driest December since 1914. Even with the wind and rainstorm that day and some mild, wet weather leading up to New Year’s, December rainfall totals were still 63.86 per cent below normal.

But the whole of 2011 was sure out of sorts. According to Roger Pannett, volunteer weather observer for Environment Canada in Chilliwack, “With mean temperatures 0.27 degrees C below normal, 2011 was the coolest year since 1996. This was primarily due to the coldest February since 1994, the coolest April and May since 1955 and the coolest April to July period since 1964.”

Temperature extremes came in odd months too. The daily record breaking minimum temperature was -10.0 degrees C on February 25th while the maximum temperature of 31.5 degrees C which occurred on September 11th. But it was still the lowest maximum summer temperature in over 30 years.

Pannett said that for the 14th consecutive year total annual precipitation was below normal.

This is the time of year when Environment Canada puts out its top ten weather stories and topping the list for 2011was the prairie flood that would never end. The spring flood became the summer flood with the highest water levels and water flows in modern history across parts of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. But if it was wet at the beginning of the growing season, conditions came together for some farmers enjoyed bumper crops at the end of the season from all that moisture.

And if it was monumentally wet on the prairies, it was monumentally windy and dry in Slave Lake where the mother of all fires destroyed one-third of the homes and business putting the Slave Lake fire in the national #2 spot. With 100 km/h winds and 1000 degree C heat, some 400 structures were reduced to twisted steel and blackened rubble.

The east wasn’t out of the line-up either, landing itself in 5th place. In August a wild week of wind and air currents in Ontario whipped up tornadoes starting with the killer F3 tornado that hit Goderich on August 21st, killing one person and injuring 40 others. An F3 twister has winds from 250 km/h to 320 km/h. Before that nightmare ended, three more tornadoes touched down in the province.

On the east coast, 19 tropical storms formed in the Atlantic basin, well above the long-term average of 11 storms and putting the region in 6th place. Six storms became hurricanes with three logging in as major at a Category 3 or higher, those being Irene, Katia and Ophelia. That storm season was a continuation of above-normal activity that began in 1995.

In the north and in 8th place, more Arctic sea ice melted. According to Environment Canada and the National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado, sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean declined to its second-lowest extent on record in September 2011. It surprised many scientists because of the absence of the usual warm weather and oceanic conditions that had contributed to the super melt in 2007. Even in December it was still unusually low.

In 10th place are the furious winds that stormed across southern Alberta. During the last week in November, some of the most powerful winds ever recorded roared across the foothills, A home weather station in Pincher Creek recorded winds at 204 km/h.

Predictions for this winter? The Weather Network is calling for southern B.C. to have near normal temperatures but wetter than usual.