As we march into the third month of 2019, we’re begging you, Mother Nature, for some warm relief.
The prairies, mainly Alberta, were smacked with a blast of Arctic air that has lingered since Friday. Many cities in the province are under extreme cold weather alerts. In Alberta, extreme cold weather alerts are issued when temperatures drop to -40 C or below.
About 130 km from Lethbridge, Alta., Waterton Park set a record low for March 4, recording -40 C. The last record was set in 1989 at -34 C.
Relief is coming though, David Phillips from Environment Canada said. “There will be a gradual moderation. We see some melting temperatures in Edmonton by Sunday, like 1 C or 2 C,” he said. “That hasn’t been the case for 30 to 35 days.”
Atlantic Canada will face a heavy storm coming in from the south, with unofficial reports already saying parts of Nova Scotia received more than half a metre of snow. The system avoided the Great Lakes, leaving Ontario and Quebec untouched, but Nova Scotia was its bullseye, Phillips said.
The province will be hit with everything from rain to snow to ice pellets, potentially even some flooding due to the low pressure system.
“In New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, it will principally be a snow event,” the senior meteorologist said. Anywhere from 30 to 40 cm of snow will blanket Moncton today.
The good news, Canada, is that spring is coming. The bad news, winter still hasn’t had its last hurrah yet, Phillips said. Though for Atlantic Canada, this might be it.
The month of March is a fighting ring for winter and spring. “You go two or three days of spring, then one day of winter.”
Phillips foresees that for the first half of this month, winter will win the battle a few times before spring finally triumphs.
In the United States, the cold air that hit the prairies is now heading south, making its way on a path east of the Rockies.
The Arctic blast is a repeat of what happened in January, when the polar vortex — the very cold air mass that normally circulates in the Arctic — broke into pieces, with a fragment hurtling south and creating dangerously cold conditions in the Lower 48 states.
The quirky behaviour of the polar vortex is caused by a dip in the jet stream and is associated with a warm air mass that pulsed north into Alaska, said Jason Furtado, an assistant professor of meteorology at the University of Oklahoma.
Whatever the precise cause, the timing is unfortunate.
“I think people this year are less prepared for this kind of cold wave, and especially in some areas where things started to bud and blossom,” Furtado said.
The fist of cold Arctic air is being escorted by a cross-continental storm system steadily heading east. The early phase of the storm has been delivering heavy rain in California and snow in the Sierras. The storm system could produce flash flooding and heavy thunderstorms in the Southeast. And cities along the Northeast Corridor, including Philadelphia, New York and Boston, could see some of the heaviest snow of the winter.