‘Be more patient’: Summer weather will come to Manitoba but maybe not until July, climatologist says

At this time last year, southern Manitoba was starting the first of five consecutive days that hit 30 C or warmer, on its way to a summer that topped out with 35 of those sizzling days.

It feels like a distant memory now — the kind where people gather around grandparents in rocking chairs to hear about the old days.

Though it might not feel like it now, summer weather is coming once again, says Dave Phillips, Environment Canada’s senior climatologist. It’s just going to take a little longer.

“I wish it would be different. I can’t sweeten it at all,” he told CBC Manitoba Information Radio host Marcy Markusa on Wednesday.

“I mean, what you see is what you’re going to get — June looks like it’s going to be cooler and wetter than normal.” 

The region just came out of its wettest meteorological spring in over a century, with heavy snow throughout March and April, and rain in May.

The result has been significant flooding across dozens of communities, evacuations, upheaval and damage to homes and infrastructure, and delayed seeding for many farmers.

The normal high for this time of year in southern Manitoba is 22 C. That won’t likely be seen until early next week, according to Environment Canada’s forecast.

Thursday’s high in Winnipeg is forecast to be just 10 C, with clouds and a chance for more rain.

But there is a stretch after Thursday that is expected to primarily be sunny, if slightly cooler than normal, Phillips said, encouraging people to celebrate the “glory and pleasure” of each good day.

“Wall-to-wall sunshine and dry weather for about a week? That is a gift, an atmospheric gift for southern Manitoba, not to see rain in the amounts that you’ve had.”

Last year’s summer was hot but it had its own devastating affects. Record heat waves and drought sent river and lake levels plunging, causing soil moisture to evaporate and making things “even worse than the Dirty ’30s,” when drought turned farms into dustbowls, Phillips said.

The tinder-dry conditions led to hundreds of wildfires and evacuations of communities.

A person wearing a rain poncho takes a photograph of the flooded McPhillips Street underpass on Tuesday. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Last year’s 35 days at 30 C or hotter tied with 1988 for most in a single year, said weather historian Rob Paola, a retired Environment Canada meteorologist who runs the popular Twitter account @robsobs.

Typically there are 13 of those days in a summer.

As the 2021 dry conditions stretched into fall, people starting hoping for a big snowfall to help reset the scales. Well, that came, several times, in a considerable overcorrection.

“All of a sudden you have now, where you’re underwater. It’s either feast or famine,” Phillips said.

Now people are hoping for a little more of what 2021 brought, but Phillips said he needs to look ahead in the calendar a bit to find that.

“I’m just struggling to find a strand of good news to give you,” he said. “We think this summer will get better as we move along. In other words, all of the miserable weather may be in June, when school is still in and vacation hasn’t started.”

July and August look more promising, though that might only mean temperatures around normal, Phillips said.

“But that’s delightful. I would rather have it [be] normal temperatures than too hot or too cool. And precipitation-wise, it looks a little better as we move along. So I think you will have a summer, but you have to be more patient for it.”

“Normal,” however, is a measuring stick that climate change is likely altering, said Phillips.

“[A] storm used to be, you know, a six-hour event and then it would be over and you’d be cleaning up. Well now it’s raining on Thursday and still raining on Saturday. So weather has more time to spread its misery,” he said.

Water from yet another deluge in Winnipeg pours over the retaining wall and sidewalk and floods the underpass on McPhillips Street on Tuesday. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

He noted the six times over two months that Manitoba has been hit by a Colorado low this year.

“All those little brothers and sisters coming your way from Colorado lows, one after another like jumbo jets on the airport tarmac, just coming in and and going over the same geography and slowing down.”

They were often three-day events that left Manitobans digging out or mopping up.

“The weather’s become wilder, weirder and and more erratic.

“And so therefore, everything we have in terms of our policies and plans and strategies for dealing with it is almost like back to the drawing board because of the strangeness of it,” he said.

“It’s not just temperature or precipitation, it’s wind and it’s everything. It’s all creating issues for people.”

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