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More warm, dry weather in the forecast for Alberta: Environment Canada

A golfer walks a cart path while playing a round at the Shaganappi Point golf course in Calgary, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh. JMC

The soaring temperatures across much of Alberta this week could be a preview of the kind of weather we can expect this spring, according to the latest weather synopsis from Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC).

In a series of posts on social media Tuesday, ECCC says “temperature extremes were the story across Alberta” in December, January and February, resulting in 323 temperature records being broken, including 202 high-temperature records and 121 low-temperature records.

While late winter finally brought some much-needed snow to the province, Northern Alberta was extremely dry with only 30 per cent of average precipitation over a large area.  The agency says the Fort McMurray area experienced its second driest winter in the 105 years that records have been kept, while the Grande Prairie area was the third driest on record (86 years).

Weather experts say the primary cause for the unusual winter weather was a strong El Nino, a weather phenomenon or climate pattern characterized by warm, above-average sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean that typically brings warmer temperatures and drier conditions to much of western Canada.

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However, Environment Canada says forecasting the weather this spring is much more uncertain.

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Global Calgary Weather Specialist Paul Dunphy says “the strong El Nino we experienced this winter is weakening and it is thought there is an 80-per cent chance of ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) neutral conditions (neither El Nino or La Nina) developing in April through June.

“At this point, spring is predicted to be warmer and drier than normal in western Canada, which would not be good considering the current drought, but should El Nino transition into ENSO neutral quickly, it could increase our prospects of spring moisture,” said Dunphy.

“A La Nina could develop later in the year but climate scientists are not sure at this point how likely it might be. La Nina typically produces conditions that are opposite of an El Nino.”

History does provide some optimism for those Albertans in desperate need of rain.

Environment Canada says the trend from previous El Niño springs shows that in 2016, 2010 and 1998, the province did experience normal to above-normal precipitation across much of the province.

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