Where is winter? The impact of warm weather in Winnipeg

It’s been anything but a normal Winnipeg winter.

While winter technically begins Dec. 21, Environment Canada says November, December and January have all been warmer than usual.

“We’re sending out search parties looking for winter – Where is it? It’s certainly not in Winnipeg,” Environment and Climate Change Canada senior climatologist David Phillips told Global News.

Phillips says normally Winnipeg would have seen about 23 to 24 days under the -20 C mark by this time. So far this season, we’ve only had six days like that.

“What’s particularly making this first half of winter so delightful is that (the) forecast was for it to be one of the worst ever,” Phillips said. “The La Nina was here, it was going to bite deep and hard, it was going to be the winter of our youth.”

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Read more: Unseasonably warm Winnipeg weather sticking around: climatologist

But all good things must come to an end, Phillips says, as southern Manitoba could start to feel the effects of a looming polar vortex by late next week. But he adds that it will likely bring more seasonal temperatures, rather than extreme cold.

He also says models are showing the February will also be much warmer than normal.

“Unless you’re an ice fisher or a snowmobiler, you’re loving this kind of weather,” he said.

The warm winter fits in with patterns we’ve been seeing in recent years, according to Manitoba’s Climate Change Connection project director Curt Hall.

“And of that warming that we’re seeing, the majority of the warming is in the winter rather than the summer,” Hall said, adding that our summers are warming as well, but not as noticeably.

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“It’s consistent with what’s projected to have happened with climate change. What’s happening is the northern latitudes, including Manitoba, are warming at a faster rate than the rest of the planet,” he said. “In fact, the arctic is warming at about twice the rate or more than the global average.”

Hall says there are many impacts of warmer winters, including the frequency of severe weather.

Read more: Mild weekend brings many Manitobans out as strict coronavirus restrictions remain in place

But he says it has a major impact on communities in northern Manitoba that rely on winter roads or ice roads.

“It depends upon the lakes and streams and muskeg freezing in order for the road to be built. As the winters warm, those roads become less dependable,” Hall said. “The span of time that they’re open has been decreasing over time.”

Warm winter impact on wildlife, pests

While not helpful for ice roads, the warm winter weather is beneficial to a variety of wildlife.

Barret Miller, special projects and custom programs coordinator at FortWhyte Alive, said the lack of ice and snow has made life a little easier for many creatures.

“The biggest impact that I’ve seen myself is on the deer. It’s been a very easy winter to be a whitetail deer in southern Manitoba so far,” Miller said. “Food is abundant. {Normally] they have trouble pawing through the snow, especially if it gets icy and frozen.”

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The mild weather also allows other pesky critters to thrive, as well.

“Things like emerald ash borer larvae, pine beetle larvae, and I hate to say it, but, ticks,” he said. “Blacklegged and wood ticks love a good warm winter.”

“It’s going to help them spread. One of the best things we can hope for if you love pine trees or ash trees, is we need to say please to the freeze for our trees.”

Click to play video 'Tick Talk: App and website helps identify ticks' Tick Talk: App and website helps identify ticks

Tick Talk: App and website helps identify ticks – Aug 6, 2020


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