The winter-spring battle
By Jim Poling
Published March 7, 2017
There is good news and not-so-good news about the weather for Haliburton County over the next three months.
The not-so-good news: What we saw this week is likely what we’ll get for the rest of March and early April. And, what we got was a whacky mix of spring one day, deep winter the next.
Last weekend saw some of the coldest temperatures of this unusual winter. It was minus 24 degrees Celsius Saturday morning, and even a little colder Sunday morning. This week there is rain and the melt is back on, only to be followed by more winter cold.
I asked meteorologist Michael Carter at the Weather Network in Oakville what’s going on. He says wild temperature swings result from competing air masses. That happens in March with warm and cold air fighting to dominate each other.
The original people of this country had that figured out long before meteorology was a science.
The Ojibwe told stories of the earth shaking as Biboon, the old winter giant, and Ziigwaan, the strong young man of spring, would fight to overthrow each other. Ziigwaan always won eventually but sometimes the battle lasted until the arrival of Niibin, the summer.
That is what happened last year when spring, which was winning the battle in March, was pinned to the mat by well below temperatures through April and into May. People shook their heads then and asked what happened to spring?
“There are no indications of a cool spring like last year,” Michael Carter tells me. “It’s a good story overall.”
The winter-spring battle will continue for the next few weeks, but April, and especially May, will see a quick transition toward summer-like temperatures, Michael says.
There is a chance of more precipitation, however. The number of rainy days likely will not be above average, forecasters say, however, rainfalls might be heavier than usual.
Although the spring outlook is positive, we can’t count out some heavy snowfalls. There is more open water than usual and cool air over warm water can bring lake effect snow.
As of last Sunday only 11.8 per cent of the Great Lakes had ice cover, meaning more lake effect snow to come. The lack of ice also means coastal areas of the Great Lakes will see an earlier spring warm-up.
Although temperatures are forecast to be below normal for the next week to 10 days, it has been a relatively mild winter. As far as I can tell, the temperature not factoring in wind chill, did not hit minus 30 once. The coldest day this winter was Jan. 7 when the low was minus 29.5.
By my count there were only 16 days between Dec. 1 and March 6 when the low temperature sank below minus 20. During the same period last winter there were 24 days below minus 20, six of them below minus 30 and one below minus 40.
Snowfall so far has been about 250 centimetres, which is about average.
I have collected this data from a mystery weather site called Haliburton 3, which lists its location at Latitude 45°01’56.094” N and Longitude 78°31’52.014” W. On my map that’s somewhere on the south side of Haliburton Village.
I call it a mystery site because I can’t find out much about it. It is an Environment Canada site on the Internet, found by searching for Haliburton 3.
The site does not give current weather and lists only historical data like how much snow/rain fell and what the temperatures were on days past.
I have asked Environment Canada several times to tell me about Haliburton 3. They tell me to contact the severe weather department. Neither the site, nor my request, has anything to do with severe weather. Follow-up messages have not been answered.
It is the only site I know that every day measures and records Haliburton County daily snow- and rainfalls, high, low and mean temperatures and snow depth on the ground. It is an interesting and valuable site for anyone following the weather.
I just don’t know who is doing all that valuable measuring and recording and would love to know more about it. If anyone reading this knows, give me a shout.