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Extreme Prairie Cold to Continue Through January

A sign of La Nina, the frigid conditions across Western Canada are expected to mostly maintain their icy grip for the remainder of January at least.

Since mid-December, the Prairies have been in a deep freeze beginning with temperatures at least 10 degrees Celsius below-normal. Since the holiday season, many towns and cities in the region have experienced record-breaking cold and wind chills of minus-45 degrees or lower (see map below). Over the past week, much of the region has been under an extreme cold warning from Environment Canada.

Drew Lerner, founder, president and senior agricultural meteorologist for World Weather Inc. in Kansas, said there will be some relief in the near-term but beyond that, the deep freeze will continue.

“A continuation of cold weather will occur. There will be a short-term break next week where we’ll warm up relatively nicely, but it’s not going to last very long,” he said. “We’ll go back to more cold weather as we move through the middle of the month and the rest of the month will have a cold bias in the majority of the Prairies.”

Lerner said the cold snap is due in part to the ongoing La Niña event, which has extensive effects on the weather across the globe, particularly in North America. Other weather factors are further amplifying the cold, he added.

“La Niña tends to produce a northwest flow across North America and it brings cold air down from the north,” Lerner said. “If you look at historical La Niña events from the past, they usually make the Prairies cold.”

However, one benefit to the freezing conditions has been snowfall. Some parts of southern Manitoba already have more snow than all of last winter and parts of southern Alberta and central Saskatchewan have also received some of the white stuff over the past few weeks. Lerner said while the recent precipitation is certainly welcome, most of the benefit will be limited by the frost in the ground.

“This week, we put a little bit of snow across (Alberta and Saskatchewan), so that’s been very helpful. (But) until the frost comes out of the ground now, there won’t be any way for that snow moisture to get far into the soil,” he said.

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