Winnipeg posts second-coldest December since 1893

WINNIPEG – It’s not just seasonal amnesia – it’s been an unusually cold December.

This month will go down as the second-coldest December in Winnipeg in more than a century.

As all of Manitoba was placed under a wind chill warning on Monday morning, Environment Canada meteorologist Dale Marciski predicted Winnipeg’s mean temperature for December 2013 would be around -21 C.

The only colder December in the past century was in 2000, when the mean temperature was -22 C. The normal mean temperature in December is -13 C.

“That’s quite significant,” Marciski said Monday morning. “Usually we’re only a degree or two off the normal.

“It seems to go on and on, and when we get the warm, it’s only for a day or two.”

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The only colder Decembers on record were in the 1800s. The coldest recorded December in Winnipeg was in 1879, when the mean temperature was -26 C. In 1872, the mean temperature was -22.6 C, in 1876, it was -21.8 C, and in 1893, it was -21.4.

An Arctic air mass stationed over the Manitoba can be blamed for the extreme wind chills, an Environment Canada warning said.

Most of Manitoba was warned to expect wind chills in the -40 to -45 range on Monday, with Churchill and York, Man., posting even colder wind chills of -45 to -50.

And an Arctic ridge of high pressure from northwestern Alberta into southern Manitoba was expected to keep the province under the bitterly cold air mass for several days, Environment Canada said.

Frostbite on exposed skin may occur in less than 10 minutes when the wind chill is -40 to -45, and less than five minutes when the wind chill is -45 to -50, Environment Canada said.

At noon, the temperature at Winnipeg’s Richardson International Airport was -31 C and the wind chill was -40. The wind chill was forecast to plummet to -50 overnight.

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The cold weather has kept CAA Manitoba busy.

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With two days left in December, the provincial branch of the Canadian Automobile Association had served more than 18,400 members, the busiest month since 2005, when the organization first started tracking monthly service numbers.

“When it comes to the winter months, December is usually a slower month,” Liz Peters, CAA Manitoba’s corporate communications manager, said in a news release. “This year so far has been the exact opposite of that trend.”

The previous busiest month recorded was January 2013, when 18,784 members were assisted.

The organization also expects to break the record for the busiest three-month period since 2005, with more than 38,400 members helped in October, November and December. The current record for a three-month period is October, November and December 2008, when 38,420 people were assisted.

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Coldest Decembers recorded in Winnipeg (pre-2013)

1879: -26
1872: -22.6
2000: -22
1876: -21.8
1893: -21.4
1933: -20.4
1983: -20.3
1886: -20
1917: -19.9
1989, 1884: -19.8