Even though it has been a cold month of March in Portage la Prairie, you do not need to search long to find a March that was even colder in this part of Manitoba.
So far this month, there have been only three days when the temperature rose above the freezing mark. Those days were on March 3rd, 4th and 24th when the temperature climbed a touch above zero. Natalie Hasell with Environment Canada says by comparison, Winnipeg is still waiting for its first day above freezing this month.
She says normally, about half the days in March will be above zero in Portage. And even though daytime highs this week have been about 13 degrees below normal, Hasell points out that our March in 2014 was even colder.
It may be cold, but it has also been dry. According to Hasell, Portage has seen the liquid water equivalent of slightly under 10 millimetres of precipitation this month while a normal March would have over 20 millimetres.
Hasell says the combination of lots of sunshine this month and some strong winds do not seem to be attacking the snowdrifts as much as one might expect. She notes sun and wind can combine to cause sublimation at this time of year which is the process of going from a solid state to vapour without passing through the liquid phase. In this case, it would mean piles of snow shrinking without any puddles to show for it. Hasell says based on snow measurements taken from the area, it does not appear the snowpack has dropped much this month, suggesting there has not been much sublimation going on.
This week is spring break for students, and for some, that means memories of a big snowstorm. Hasell says while it does not happen every year, it is certainly not unusual to have a storm during spring break week, particularly because the worst storms of the winter season often happen in late March or early April. Having said that, she notes there are two potential storms they are currently tracking.
The first one is an Alberta Clipper or a Mackenzie Valley Low that could hit us on Thursday, but Hasell says Environment Canada is not expecting a huge amount of precipitation with that one for southern Manitoba.
The second potential storm would hit late this weekend or early next week. However, Hasell says it is too far into the future to speak to that one with any confidence. She explains that often their models will paint an area of concern in southern Manitoba, but then as the days go by, the track of the low changes.
Meanwhile, it appears we will now see a bit of a warming trend as we get closer to the weekend. Environment Canada is calling for temperatures just above the freezing mark by Friday. However, Hasell points out that the mild weather will be short-lived. After this weekend Hasell commented we will probably get some cooler weather again, lasting until about the second week of April.