From January 11th to 15th, the daytime high in Estevan stayed below -20°. This was the first time in more than five years there had been a stretch of five or more days of daytime highs that cold in January. The primary reason for the extreme cold, which prompted warnings, was a system to the northeast.
“There’s a big upper low that’s been over Hudson Bay spinning around,” explained Terri Lang. She is a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada. The system, which was spinning counterclockwise, was pulling air from the Arctic. However, that same system could also help to play a role in moderating the temperature.
“The northeast Arctic right now is setting temperature records for high temperatures,” Lang noted. However, the system also comes with high winds, which helps exacerbate the cold thanks to wind chill values remaining close to –30.
While the entire province has been dealing with frigid temperatures, many have wondered what happened to El Nino. The weather event generally brings warmer and drier winters to Saskatchewan, but the month of January hasn’t been the case.
“When we talk about El Nino years, we say in general, on average, over that three-month period which winter is, December, January, and February, it will generally be warmer than average and drier than average, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to get cold, and it doesn’t mean it’s not going to snow,” Lang stated.
A cold snap in January during El Nino isn’t exactly unprecedented, either.
Over the past 20 years, there have been six El Nino events. Except for January of 2007, there has been at least one stretch lasting two or more days of daytime highs below –20 in January. This trend also dates back to the last few strong El Nino events, with January 1998, 1983, and 1973 seeing stretches of four days of extreme cold.
With the temperature change that is expected over the next few days, there is also the possibility of some precipitation. Lang noted there could be some flurries ahead of the weekend, but even more before the start of next week.
“It does look like the system moving through on Sunday because it’s coming from the west and we’re getting some warmer air associated with it, we should get a little bit more in the way of snowfall with this – bigger snowflakes, maybe more accumulation, but still not looking at huge accumulations.”
The temperature has been a lot colder than the 30-year average for Estevan. The front bringing the snow, however, could put us back above the average.
“We’re going to start running above seasonal, and it’s looking like it’s going to get warmer than that, maybe even approaching that zero-degree mark, by the middle of next week,” Lang predicted.
You can stay up to date with the latest forecast on the Discover Estevan Weather page.