Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Quick shot of moderate snow for Montreal

 We all want spring by now, and so I have been told by many to keep the bad news to myself. I am, and continue to be just the messenger, if I had more power, I would be making considerably more money. That being said, it is cold again this morning across southern Quebec. After yesterdays brief flirting with the freezing point, we had a few snow squalls and then clearing skies. The clear skies allowed the mercury to fall rapidly at sunset, down to -17C (2F) this morning at Trudeau Airport and -19C (-2F) on L'Ile Perrot. The temperature is rapidly turning the other way today and will rise up to plus 2C (36F) by midday Wednesday. That is the good news.

Here is the bad news, low pressure will move from the central plains into the Great Lakes tonight and east of Montreal Wednesday. Warm air overrunning the cold air at the surface will produce a quick moderate snowfall for southern Quebec. The snow will mix with freezing rain and rain in southern Ontario. Expect snow to start in Montreal around 6pm Tuesday and taper off early Wednesday morning. A good 10cm (4 inches) is forecast for the Montreal area into eastern Ontario with perhaps a little more along the US border. Gusty southwest winds up to 60km/h may cause blowing snow early Wednesday. Skies will clear Wednesday, and it should be the mildest day in over 6 weeks with a forecast high above freezing. Weather warnings for freezing rain and snow stretch from the lower Great Lakes and Ontario into New England but not metro Montreal at this time.

The warmth will be short lived as colder weather is expected by Thursday morning with lows back down to -12C (10F) and highs of -7C (19F) for Montreal.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Welcome to meteorological Spring

From WBZ news Boston, the collapsed roof of the Metropolis Skating Rink in Canton, Massachusetts. It, along with scores of other buildings in coastal New Hampshire and Massachusetts, have lost there roofs after record snowfall and cold in February. This roof collapsed Saturday morning, thankfully with no injuries.
Welcome to what meteorologists like to call the start of spring. True spring does not arrive until March 20 this year and actual spring weather may even be later than that, as we have become accustomed to in southern Quebec.

By all accounts we just survived the coldest February ever in Montreal. The data goes back about 115 years for the city, and I have looked back as far as the 1960's. The numbers still have to be crunched by Environment Canada but the monthly average will fall either side of -15C (4F) for Montreal. I recorded -14.8C here on  L'Ile Perrot. The 30 year average for the city is -7.7C, so we were cold to say the least! As far as duration goes, we are now starting our 41st consecutive day in a row of below freezing temperatures, a stretch that has included 18 days below -20C for nightly lows. There is an end in sight, but as I have overstated this past week, it will be very gradual. Already warmer air is trying to move northward. The warm air is being slowed by deep snow pack and lots of ice on area lakes and rivers. The result will be temperatures getting away from the minus 20's, but remaining below normal through middle March.

In the short term we are looking at two snowfalls this upcoming week with perhaps an end to our below freezing streak this coming Wednesday. Low pressure will pass south of Quebec today and bring a general 2-5cm snowfall tonight into early Monday. That will be followed by colder air once again along with gusty winds into Tuesday. Temperatures will be a mild today, -4C (25F) and -5C (23F) on Monday. By Tuesday stronger low pressure will approach southern Quebec from the midwest US and move down the St. Lawrence Valley. Snow will start late in the day Tuesday and mix with freezing rain early Wednesday before ending. Montreal can expect as much as 10cm of snow. There is a risk of some flurries or sprinkles Wednesday with the mercury perhaps making it up to 2C (36F). That would be welcome. Colder weather and clearing skies return for Thursday.

Friday, February 27, 2015

March in like a lion or lamb?

A beautiful picture from one of my favorite places on the planet, Ocracoke Island, North Carolina. They had some rare snow this week as cold air settled into the deep southern US. Only Florida and Hawaii were spared snowfall this week.
(Ocracoke Island Journal Blog)
The lion versus lamb reference is always referred to at this time of year. This is an old English proverb that basically states that if March starts poorly in the weather department, it will end well and vice versa. In reality March is often a month of tremendous transition in Montreal, with our biggest snowstorms, biting cold but also heavy rain and record warmth. It can really go either way. It looks rather lamb like at the moment.

So the question of the week, and stated here in much more polite terms that is has been poised to me, when will it warm up? The answer, soon, but very slowly. It is a valid question given that this is one of the longest below 0C (32F) periods in a long time. The temperature dropped below 0C in Montreal at 1pm on January 19, 2015, by my calculations about 40 days ago. It has not risen above since. The average temperature for February so far is in the -15C (5F) range, which puts it on par to be one of the coldest months ever in this city.

Sunshine will prevail today across the St. Lawrence Valley but with cold highs of around -10C (14F). On the weekend it will turn warmer with highs forecast to be around -4C (25F) both Saturday and Sunday. Overnight lows will remain chilly, down to -18C (0F). Late in the day Sunday clouds will increase from a weak frontal system, with some light snow overnight into Monday. Amounts will range from 3-10cm across the area with the higher amounts in the Adirondacks and Green Mountains. Sunshine returns Monday into Tuesday before another low pressure area approaches form the Great Lakes. At this time it looks like snow will develop late Tuesday night in Montreal and persist into Wednesday perhaps mixing with rain. Yes I said rain, and that means our streak of below freezing weather could come to an end as early as next Wednesday. Amounts of precipitation with this storm will be in the moderate range, perhaps more than 10cm, so perhaps warnings will be required. It is still early in the forecast period, so we will have to wait and see how this system evolves.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Very slow relief from the bitter cold is on the way

Above & Below: Just how cold has it been? Enough to partially freeze over the mighty Niagara Falls.
  It was another cold morning in Montreal on Tuesday, the coldest February 24 since 1972. The temperature dropped to -24.8C (-13F) at Trudeau Airport, shattering the previous record of -21.7C (-8F). It was even colder in rural areas with -27C (-17F) on L'Ile Perrot, the second coldest morning of this winter and the third coldest since I moved here in 2009. Other records were set at St. Anicet -30C (-24, 2005), Kemptville, Ontario at -27.3C (-25, 1934) and Ottawa at -26.8C (-20.9, 1989). The core of this batch of cold air will move east tonight as a very weak area of low pressure slides across southern Quebec. Moisture is very limited with this system so don't expect much in the way of snowfall, perhaps 1-3cm across the region. Winds will become gusty again Wednesday afternoon, up to 50km/h, creating areas of blowing and drifting snow.

I may have been a little too excited this morning in my claim that Montreal would not see anymore minus 20 degree mornings. In fact the cold front that crosses the region tomorrow night will introduce a reinforcing shot of cold air. With clear skies tomorrow and again Thursday and Friday we may indeed dip just below -20C in some parts of southern Quebec. The good news is we are looking at a general warming trend into the weekend and next week. It won't become tropical, but temperatures will get closer to the normal high and low of -2C and -11C respectively. What I do however see for March is snow, and perhaps lots of it. Montreal has really managed to avoid a major snowstorm this year with a generous 20cm recorded on two occasions. That may change as we head into March and the storm track begins to originate more from the Gulf of Mexico and travels a little further north along the jet stream. Time will tell, but that is what the crystal ball is showing right now.

Incidentally the Great Lakes have more ice cover than last year at this time. Just over 84% of the lake area is covered with ice, way ahead of last year which was 67% at this time. In 40 years of record keeping, the maximum recorded ice was in the cold winter of 1979 with 97%. Last year the maximum of 92.5% was reached in March. Even the mighty Niagara Falls has been slowed somewhat as large portions of it are frozen over. The ice cover will likely have an impact on our spring, just as it did last year.

Monday, February 23, 2015

One more week of the arctic chill for Quebec & Ontario

While L'Ile Perrot and the rest of metro Montreal have only had between 50-60cm (20-24") of snow this month, the extreme cold has meant is it all still around. The relentless smaller snowfalls and wind have kept roads in poor condition and snowplow operators working non-stop. (ValleyWX Photo)
Montreal managed a high of -4C (25F) on Sunday afternoon, the warmest in some time, but still short of the freezing point. That makes 34 days since we were last above freezing in this city, a trend that will last all this week. After 5-10cm of snow over the weekend, including a decent squall along the cold front late last evening, temperatures have dropped rapidly this morning. It is currently -19C (-2F) on L'Ile Perrot with northwest winds in excess of 40km/h. This has placed windchill readings once again in the minus 30's across southern Quebec. The cold wind chills extend into Ontario and New York as well as New England prompting widespread extreme cold and windchill warnings. The criteria in Quebec is -40C, so no warnings are posted here. This makes no difference at all, it is still stupid cold once again!

The cold will last all week with a forecast high of only -18C (0F) today for Montreal, dropping into the mid minus 20's overnight region wide. Tuesday clouds will increase as a weak clipper moves in from western Canada. That will moderate temperatures slightly, rising up to between -7C and -9C (15 to 20F) for the balance of the week. While that is still well below normal, it is a vast improvement over the rest of this month. Lows will be in the -15 to -17C (2 to 5F) range. As far as snowfall goes, we are expecting at 2-5cm late Tuesday and Wednesday before high pressure returns on Thursday. Skies will remain clear into next weekend with moderating temperatures. At this time the start of March looks stormy, but that is still a week away. As we have seen this winter, allot can happen in that time frame.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

More snow...more cold for southern Quebec

Piles of ice and water on Belgrave Avenue in the Montreal borough of NDG on Friday morning. (Global News Photo)
The winds have finally calmed this morning after almost 48 hours of 50 to 60km/h gusts across southern Quebec. The constant blowing and drifting snow made road travel terrible especially off island to the south. At one point yesterday several highways including Quebec Autoroute 15 to the US border were closed because of the weather. Blowing snow reduced visibility and iced roads in the extreme cold. Numerous accidents were reported. The cold has been relentless this month and Friday was no different in Montreal. Despite the eventual sunshine, temperatures only warmed to -16C. That is the current temperature this morning. 

Clouds have increased again over southern Quebec this morning in advance of low pressure moving from the Ohio Valley down the St. Lawrence Valley. Light snow will start early today and taper off by Sunday morning. A general 5-10cm (2-4 inches) is forecast across southern Quebec and Ontario with perhaps 15-20cm (6-8 inches) along the US border and points south into the Greens and Adirondacks. Temperatures will warm all day today, tonight and Sunday up to a sultry -2C (28F). It may even rise above freezing in a few spots Sunday, which would be the first time that has happened in over 6 weeks. It will be short lived as winds will increase again late Sunday and temperatures will plummet down to -20C (-4F) in Montreal by Monday morning. Clouds and flurries are likely along an arctic front that will clear the region by Monday morning. The high on Monday will only be -17C (2F) with gusty winds and low windchill values. The gusty 50km/h winds will also blow around the fresh snow once again making travel poor on highways outside the city.

The prolonged frigid weather has created a mess with multiple water main breaks in Montreal. There have been several major breaks across the island that have flooded basements and trapped cars in mounds of ice. Yesterday was no different with a break on Belgrave Avenue in NDG not only flooding roads, but also the AMT commuter rail line, delaying service for the third time this week. The delay in train service left thousands of commuters freezing on windy platforms on three lines. Earlier in the week, frozen switches delayed train service for over an hour Thursday night.
No major relief is in sight yet with more cold weather all this week.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

It could be the coldest February in Montreal since '78

Brackley Beach, PEI buried under record snows.
If you thought it was cold in Montreal, you were right. A little research on my part is showing that we have not been this cold, this long in February, since 1978, when I was 12! I looked back over the data to see the last time Montreal remained below 0C (32F) for the entire month of February. I had to go back to 1978 when the overall average for the month was only -12.1C (10.2F). Through February 17, 2015, we are sitting at -15.9C (4F). For reference the normal average for February is -7.7C (18F). If we last the next 10 days below the 0C mark we will establish the dubious distinction of having stayed below freezing for an entire month. As a matter of fact the last time Montreal was above freezing was January 19. If you look at the average high and lows for the first 17 days of this month, you see just how cold it is. The current data from Trudeau (and my house backs this up) shows an average high of -11.7C (11F) and low of -20.0C (-4F), the normal is -3C (27F) and -12C (10F) respectively. We are literally freezing and it is expected to stay that way into the first week of March. Other cold years in Montreal included 1979, 1993 and 1994, but they had a least one day above freezing in February.

We have not had lots of snow this month, but what has fallen has stayed and is piled high everywhere. It is no coincidence that Boston is having a winter that is rivaling that of 1978. The two winters have strong similarities, and we are not done yet.

The next storm poised to bring snow to New England, Quebec, Ontario and Atlantic Canada this weekend.
 More snow is on the way for Montreal with a brief warm up to -8C or so over the next day or two. Expect light snow to develop this evening in Montreal and persist all day Thursday. Up to 5cm can be expected in Montreal with perhaps as much as 10-15cm for the Townships, along the US border. Friday will clear out slowly but it will turn wind and cold again, down to -20C Friday night. Another storm system is expected to arrive for the weekend with perhaps 5-10cm of snow for Montreal and points south, less north and west. I am watching this system closely to see if we can expect more from it or not. The computer models have been all over the place with this potential storm, stay tuned!