Thursday, February 04, 2016

From snow and ice to a record high for Montreal

Wednesday started off icy and snowy on L'Ile Perrot, and across most of eastern Ontario and southern Quebec, but ended with a record high of 8C. (ValleyWeather)
Within a 24-hour period, Montreal managed 15-20mm of frozen precipitation, ranging from snow to freezing rain and sleet, followed by a record high reached late Wednesday evening. The freezing rain created a very slow and slippery commute in Montreal with numerous accidents reported, including one that closed Highway 20 at St. Charles on the West Island. The high temperature at Trudeau Airport occurred near midnight, 8.2C (48F), eclipsing the 1991 record of 6.2C. The warmth was part of a large storm system that spread north across the central US plains and into western Quebec. The winter storm produced heavy rain and snow along its path, with near-blizzard conditions reported from Minnesota to Colorado. Meanwhile, on the warm side of the system, severe thunderstorms and multiple tornadoes were reported across Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

It was not just Montreal benefiting from the warmth yesterday, Burlington, Vermont established a new record high of 54F for February 3rd and 4th, the fifth record high this winter. Toronto soared to 16C (60F), smashing the previous record of 9.3C (49F) set in 1991. Ottawa reached 7.9C (46F), beating the previous high of 6.5C set in 1991. Most locations in eastern Ontario and western Quebec that tied or set new temperature records did so after dark last evening, making it an even stranger weather event.

A cold front will arrive today, resulting in temperatures falling well below freezing tonight and into the weekend. Along with the colder temperatures, there will be several opportunities for snow, the first, Saturday evening. None of the storms at this time look significant, but we are watching an east coast system for the middle of next week to see just how close it comes to southern Quebec.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Early Spring - Happy Groundhog Day!

7AM UPDATE: Shubenacadie Sam did not see his shadow this morning in Nova Scotia and is predicting an early Spring.

If Candlemas be fair and bright, 
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, 
Winter will not come again

Tuesday, February 2nd is Groundhog Day across North America, the midway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. I love the day because, at the very least, it brings everyone into my weather circle for just a few moments. Groundhog Day can trace its humble beginning to Germany in the 1700s and the Festival of Candlemas The superstition stated that if the weather was sunny on Candlemas, February 2ndone could expect six more weeks of winter; if cloudy, an early spring would occur.

The origins of the day in North America date as far back as 1887. In Pennsylvania, German settlers thought that if the sun made an appearance on Candlemas Day, an animal would cast a shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter. The Germans watched a badger for the shadow, however in Pennsylvania, the groundhog was selected as the replacement.

Nowadays, we have numerous groundhogs across North America who claim weather supremacy. Wiarton Willie in Ontario, Shubenacadie Sam in Nova Scotia and Punxsawtawney Phil in Pennsylvania remain the most popular. As we wait for this year`s predictions, think about the quote on Phil's accuracy via Inner Circle VP and handler Mike Johnston, "He is not burdened with the necessity to be site-specific. So Phil's predictions are unquestionably accurate.” Well, in reality, according to Stormfax.comPhil has an accuracy rating of 39% over the years and has seen his shadow 87% of the time. I have never thought of the day as holding any scientific accuracy, but I love the fanfare just the same.  In any event, shadow or now shadow, as Canadians, either way would be a bonus for us here in Montreal. If winter ended in six weeks, that would be about four weeks ahead of normal! Canadians are all too familiar with how harsh the weather can be at the end of March and start of April. 

For a more informed and scientific opinion I turn to the monthly Environment Canada media bulletin for January 2016, and meteorologist Andre Cantin who stated, Will we have an early spring? It is early to say categorically, but the probabilities are in our favour because, in the past, most winters influenced by El NiƱo have ended earlier than average. However, Mother Nature can always surprise us with major spring storms. Do not put your shovels away too soon!! 

Monday, February 01, 2016

Warm & wet start to February

Mild air and rain will return once again by Wednesday in Montreal.

After a rainy and very mild Sunday, record high temperatures have already been established this morning in Toronto, 10.4C (51F) and Burlington, Vermont at 11C (52F). Close to home, St Anicet reached 11.1C (52F) in the pre-dawn hours, shattering their record of 5.5C from 2002. We managed 9.4C (49F) here on L'Ile Perrot and 8C (48F) at Trudeau, just a notch below the record high of 10.3C set in 1988. The normal high should be -5C (23F). We have likely reached the daytime highs for the day, as a cold front is about to move into eastern Ontario and southern Quebec. Gusty winds up to 60km/h are possible up to the noon hour today in the St. Lawrence Valley, along with falling temperatures back to the freezing point by later this afternoon. Some showers are possible, but it will be dry for most of the day.

Tonight will be partly cloudy and much colder as high pressure briefly nudges into the area. Temperatures will drop to -9C (16F), so Tuesday morning will feel very different from this morning. Tuesday is also Groundhog Day, when furry rodents all over North America take over the forecasting duties. More on that later today.  After a sunny day on Tuesday with a high of -3C (27F), our attention will turn to a developing storm over the US Rockies. This strengthening system will move towards the Great Lakes and eventually western Quebec. Another surge of moisture and mild air will arrive late Tuesday night and early Wednesday. At this time, we are expecting a snow and rain mix to transition to all rain by Wednesday as temperatures rise well above freezing. The timing and any possible problems with freezing rain still have to be ironed out. I will post an update on this storm later today. By the end of the week, much colder air will return with a few flurries.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Very mild weekend in store for Montreal

A weak Alberta Clipper is giving a wide area of very light snow to southern Quebec today. Despite light snow most of the week, under 5cm has fallen in Montreal and none officially remains on the ground at Trudeau Airport as of this morning.
A series of weak low-pressure areas skirting the international border has left a few centimetres of snow across southern Quebec this week. Typically, any low pressure that comes across the Prairies is moisture-starved and drops very little snow in Montreal. We have another today that may put down 2 or 3cm of snow with a mild high of 0C (32F), and yet one more clipper low on Saturday. On Sunday, a stronger storm system will lift north of the Great Lakes, well west of Montreal, putting southern Quebec into a warm air mass. Temperatures will rise well above freezing both Sunday and Monday, up to 6C (43F) with rain expected. Strong winds will also accompany this system. After a break Tuesday, another even stronger storm will move out of the US Rockies and across the upper Midwest. It should remain well west of Montreal, giving us another round of very mild temperatures with mixed precipitation turning to rain by Wednesday morning. Strong winds in excess of 70km/h will also accompany this system.

Briefly looking beyond next week, expect much colder air to return, with a chance of a big snowstorm by the period of February 10th to 14th. There is still plenty of time and finessing of the computer models, but it looks like something significant may impact southern Quebec.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Unsettled but mild week ahead

A poorly-timed period of steady snow slowed the morning commute in Montreal.
Traffic was slow again this morning in Montreal as a poorly-timed area of wet snow and mixed precipitation crossed the city. Snow-covered, icy roads and low visibility occurred just in time for the morning rush hour. The culprit is an area of low pressure lifting into central Quebec today. Mild air is accompanying the system, so expect any precipitation to change to light rain today. Temperatures will rise to a very mild 4C (39F). Some Ontario locations have set record highs already for today's date, but Montreal's is safe for now (13.3C set in 1950).

A rather windy cold front will cross the city tonight by midnight, with dropping temperatures down to -4C (25F) and gusty winds up to 70km/h. Any precipitation will change back to light snow with perhaps a repeat of today's commute tomorrow morning. The balance of the week will remain unsettled but mild with periods of wet snow or mixed precipitation. No one system will be strong, but the weather will be very changeable with perhaps 5-10cm of snow by week's end. Looking ahead, I expect much colder weather to return for the second week of February, along with the chance of a storm on or around the 10th of the month. This is all preliminary and subject to change in this crazy El Nino driven winter, but computer models are suggesting something may develop.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Historic snowstorm breaks 100 year old records on east coast

No traffic was permitted in New York City Saturday night after two feet of snow fell in one day. (NYPD Photo)
What more can be said about the snowstorm along the east coast of the US on Saturday, epic, historic, amazing. The storm dumped more snow in 24 hours than most locations see in a year. Some regions in western Maryland and Northern Virginia approached 40 inches or 100cm for a single storm. By comparison, Montreal has has about 75cm (30 inches) of snow for the entire season. Some notables were Central Park, New York with 26.8" (their seasonal normal is 25.8"), Allentown, Pennsylvania at 31.9", JFK in New York City at 30.5", their biggest one day snowfall ever. Also, Washington, Dulles measured 29.3", Baltimore 29.2" and Philadelphia 20". Further north the drop off was quick with Boston recording only 4 to 6 inches and Albany, NY nothing. Some snow also fell along the south coast of Nova Scotia overnight with around 5-10cm (2-4 inches). Winds with this storm were fierce gusting between 50-75mph in many cities.

Along with the heavy snow came severe coastal flooding, especially in New Jersey and Delaware. North Wildwood, New Jersey had a higher storm surge than recorded during superstorm Sandy. Massive flooding was reported up and down the Jersey Shore. The storm brought traffic to a standstill on the ground and in the air. At one point on Saturday, a traffic ban was in effect in New York City, Baltimore and Washington D.C. Highways were closed, train and bus service stopped, and thousands of flights cancelled or delayed including 50 at Trudeau Airport in Montreal. It will take days for the clean up and for travel to return to normal. Further south freezing rain and ice buildup across the Carolina's caused massive power outages. Power outages totaled over 250,000 along the storms path. Hydro Quebec has sent at least 200 employees south to help with the power restoration.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Snowstorm pounds east coast

Cleaning up in front of the US Capitol building on Friday. (AP Photo)
A crazy El Nino driven snowstorm is pounding the eastern seaboard of the US from North Carolina to southern New England this morning. Heavy snow has fallen in places not accustomed to it including Nashville and Charlotte. Over 35cm (14 inches) has been reported in Washington DC since the storm started late Friday. The weather has resulted in major airports closing and thousands of flights cancelled. Travel on the ground has been terrible with hundreds of accidents reported and several highways closed completely. A state of emergency has been declared from New Jersey to Virginia. Overnight thunder and lightning were observed with the snow across Maryland.

Crews try to stay ahead of the heavy snow in Alexandria, Virginia on Friday. (weather.com)
This morning the large weather system is located off the Delaware coast moving northeast. Winds have been reported up to 75mph in coastal regions of Virginia and Maryland along with flooding from the Atlantic Ocean. Coastal flooding will affect Delaware, New Jersey and Long Island today moving into coastal Massachusetts later. Hundreds of thousands have lost power. The snow will continue most of the day while spreading northward into southern New England. New York City is forecasting 30 to 45cm (12 to 18 inches) of snow today. Arctic high pressure will keep the storm well south of Montreal with just some high cloudiness and a northeast wind today. The storm will impact extreme southern Nova Scotia on Sunday with 80km/h winds and up to 10cm of snow.