Top 10 Weather Stories of 2016 for the Winnipeg Area

2016 will be remembered for its overly generous warmth, thunderstorms and precipitation. It was a high-impact year for southern Manitoba. Here at A Weather Moment, we have prepared a list of what we think were the top 10 weather stories of 2016. Keep in mind it may not be ordered perfectly for everyone – some people may have been affected more by some events than others. Nonetheless, here they are!
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November 2016 Shatters Multiple Records; Warmest Since 1872

Winnipeg just experienced one of the most extreme months ever seen since records began in 1872.

With every single day posting above-normal temperatures and an average mean temperature of 3.1°C, it was the warmest November on record. In fact, much of Manitoba recorded its warmest November this year. According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, Brandon, Emerson, Portage, Sprague, Flin Flon, Thompson, The Pas and Swan River all had their warmest November on record. The month was marked by both a lack of cold and frequent bouts of record warmth.

Every single day was warmer than normal in Winnipeg, a streak that began in late October. Up to December 7th, we have now had 48 consecutive days of above normal temperatures.

Warmest November on Record: The Numbers

RankAverage
Daily High (°C)
Average
Daily Mean (°C)
Average
Daily Low (°C)
17.2 (2016)3.1 (2016)-1.1 (2016)
27.1 (2009)1.3 (1899)-3.2 (1923)
36.4 (1999)1.3 (1923)-3.3 (1899)
45.8 (1899)1.0 (1981)-3.3 (1922)
55.8 (1923)0.9 (2001)-3.5 (1981)
65.7 (2001)0.8 (2009)-3.6 (1917)
75.5 (1981)0.6 (1999)-3.7 (1953)
85.3 (1939)0.5 (1917)-3.9 (2001)
95.2 (1904)0.2 (1922)-4.3 (1918)
104.6 (1917)0.1 (1953)-4.3 (1944)

The average mean temperature of 3.1°C in Winnipeg in November was an impressive 7.7°C above the 1981-2010 normal of -4.6°C. It also broke the old record by a margin of 1.8°C! The old record being 1.3°C in 1899 and 1923. It is quite significant to break a monthly record by this significant a margin. To give a perspective, March 2012 had only exceeded the previous warmest March by 0.6°C and September 2009 exceeded the previous warmest September by 0.9°C. The last time we broke a monthly record by this kind of margin was in January 2006 when we exceeded the previous warmest January by 3.2°C! The following graph of November mean temperature per year since 1872 shows how much this year was an outlier!

Brandon also had it warmest November on record with an average mean temperature of 2.0°C, breaking the old record of 0.7°C in 1917 and 1953. This gave a record margin of 1.3°C, again the greatest since January 2006. It was also 7.6°C above the 1981-2010 normal of -5.6°C.

Temperatures were especially warm early month with highs regularly in the double digits. Winnipeg exceeded 10°C on 10 occasions, tied with 1981 and 2009 for second most on record in November. Record was 11 days above 10°C in 1904. The monthly maximum was 18.8°C on the 9th, smashing the old record of 14.4°C in 1923 and 1930. It was also the latest date on record to reach or exceed 18°C since 1872. In total, two record highs, three record high minimums and one tied record high occurred in November, and they are listed below.

DateRecord TypeNew RecordOld Record
Nov. 6High Maximum16.7°C16.7 (Tied 1975)
Nov. 6High Minimum7.4°C5.6°C (1906 / 1922)
Nov. 9High Maximum18.8°C14.4°C (1923)
Nov. 9High Minimum4.8°C2.8°C (1969)
Nov. 12High Maximum13.6°C13.2°C (1981)
Nov. 24High Minimum0.1°C0.0°C (1988)

Many locations across southern Manitoba reached 20°C during the warm spell and many more than once. In fact, Baldur, Ste. Rose, McCreary, Portage la Prairie, Deerwood and Boissevain all saw three days exceed 20°C. The maximum recorded temperature was 22.7°C in Ethelbert and Alonsa. 20°C highs occurred in southern Manitoba November 4th, 5th, 6th and 9th. The latest known occurrence of 20°C in Manitoba was on November 17, 2001 when Morden reached 21.0°C.

In general, November simply featured a distinct lack of cold conditions. This helped Winnipeg break the following records:

  • Only 5 days dipped below -5°C, breaking the old record of 7 days in 1899.
  • Only one day dipped below -10°C, tied with 1912, 1923, 1981 and 2001 for the least on record.
  • Only 18 days dipped below freezing, breaking the old record of 20 days set in 2015. Normal is 28 days.
  • 28 days exceeded the freezing mark, tied with 2009 for 2nd most. Most was 29 days in 1899.
  • 4 days exceeded 15°C, tied with 1903 and 1981 for most on record.

2nd Warmest Fall on Record

With an average mean temperature of 8.0°C, it was the 2nd warmest fall on record in Winnipeg. The warmest was in 1963 when we averaged 8.6°C (1963 had featured the warmest October on record).

RankDaily High (°C)Daily Mean (°C)Daily Low (°C)
115.0 (1963)8.6 (1963)3.3 (2016)
213.2 (1923)8.0 (2016)2.9 (1931)
313.0 (1948)7.9 (1931)2.3 (1953)
412.8 (1931)7.5 (1923)2.3 (1963)
512.8 (2009)7.3 (1953)2.0 (1922)
612.8 (2016)7.3 (2009)2.0 (2015)
712.6 (1920)7.3 (2015)1.9 (1923)
812.6 (2011)7.2 (1948)1.7 (1914)
912.6 (2015)7.1 (1914)1.7 (2009)
1012.4 (1914)7.1 (1920)1.5 (1920)
1112.2 (1953)7.0 (1922)1.5 (1944)
1212.1 (1994)6.8 (1994)1.5 (1994)
1312.1 (2001)6.8 (2011)1.4 (1908)
1412.0 (1906)6.6 (2004)1.4 (1948)
1512.0 (1938)6.5 (1940)1.3 (1940)
1611.9 (1899)6.3 (1908)1.3 (1954)
1711.9 (1922)6.3 (1962)1.2 (1934)
1811.9 (2004)6.3 (2001)1.2 (1981)
1911.7 (1940)6.2 (1899)1.2 (2004)
2011.5 (1962)6.2 (1981)1.1 (1912)
2111.5 (2005)6.1 (1906)1.0 (1962)
2211.3 (1908)6.1 (2005)1.0 (2011)
2311.3 (1909)5.9 (1944)0.9 (1968)
2411.3 (1990)5.9 (1998)0.8 (1983)
2511.3 (1998)5.8 (1904)0.7 (1949)
2611.3 (1999)5.7 (1938)0.7 (2005)
2711.2 (1952)5.7 (1954)0.6 (1956)
2811.2 (1981)5.7 (1968)0.6 (1960)
2911.2 (1987)5.6 (1912)0.5 (1904)
3011.1 (1897)5.6 (1943)0.5 (1928)

We reached 2nd warmest mainly due to the warmest November on record. However, September was also warm with an average of 14.4°C, tied with 2005 for 19th warmest September. October was also above normal with an average mean temperature of 6.6°C, 1.5°C above normal.

Record Humidity

Average dewpoint temperatures were also at a record high this November and fall. In fact, they were shockingly anomalous in November. Dewpoint temperatures averaged 0.3°C in November in Winnipeg, obliterating the previous record of -2.9°C set last year. It’s one thing to break a monthly record two years in a row, but to break the previous year’s record by 3.2°C is just another story!

RankHighest Average Dewpoint (°C)Lowest Average Dewpoint (°C)
10.3 (2016)-14.9 (1985)
2-2.9 (2015)-13.9 (1996)
3-3.0 (1981)-12.6 (2014)
4-3.2 (2009)-12.3 (1978)
5-3.9 (1962)-12.3 (1995)
6-3.9 (2001)-11.9 (1986)
7-4.0 (1954)-11.7 (1955)
8-4.0 (1999)-11.3 (1959)
9-4.2 (1953)-11.3 (1966)
10-4.3 (1983)-11.3 (1976)
11-4.7 (1987)-10.7 (1991)
12-4.8 (1956)-10.1 (1989)
13-4.8 (2005)-9.4 (1982)
14-5.0 (1980)-9.3 (1973)
15-5.0 (2004)-9.1 (1965)
16-5.1 (1994)-9.0 (1990)
17-5.1 (2011)-8.9 (1993)
18-5.2 (2008)-8.8 (2003)
19-5.5 (1998)-8.5 (2013)
20-5.5 (2010)-8.4 (1972)

The graph below shows very well how out of bounds this year was in terms of average dewpoint temperature in November. In fact, it was almost two and a half standard deviations above the 1981-2010 normal of -7.4°C.

Average dewpoints were also at a record high for the fall season. The September to November average was 4.4°C, breaking the old record of 3.6°C in 2009.

A total of 18 record high and high minimum dewpoint records were broken throughout the fall season from September to November: 12 in November, 5 in October and 1 in September. Not a single record low dewpoint occurred. This included a record high dewpoint of 12.3°C on November 6 which was also an all-time high dewpoint temperature for November since 1953. The previous record was 11.1°C on November 5, 1956.

DateRecord TypeNew RecordOld Record
Nov. 4High Maximum9.7°C9.5°C (1981)
Nov. 5High Minimum2.2°C1.7°C (1956)
Nov. 6High Maximum12.3°C9.4°C (2000)
Nov. 6High Minimum4.9°C1.4°C (1977)
Nov. 7High Maximum10.8°C10.4°C (1977)
Nov. 9High Maximum7.7°C6.1°C (2010)
Nov. 23High Minimum-0.4°C-1.5°C (2001)
Nov. 24High Minimum-0.2°C-0.7°C (1988)
Nov. 28High Minimum-1.0°C-1.1°C (1998)
Nov. 29High Maximum3.4°C2.1°C (1998)
Nov. 29High Minimum-1.5°C-2.3°C (1987)
Nov. 30High Minimum-2.1°C-2.8°C (1962)

Postponed First Snowfall

Thanks to warm conditions (and a bit of luck), Winnipeg did not see its first snowfall accumulation of the season until November 22, the latest date on record to see our first measurable snowfall of the season. A measurable snowfall is a snowfall of at least 0.2 cm. This broke the old record of November 21 in 1963 and was more than a month later than the 1981-2010 normal of October 18.

RankDate of First Measurable Snowfall (≥ 0.2cm)Year
1November 222016
2November 211963
3November 201953
4November 191931
5 tie
5 tie
November 18
November 18
1880
2015
7November 171890
8November 161977
9November 151903

Winnipeg also went 225 days without measurable snowfall (Apr 11 to Nov 21), the 3rd longest snow-free period since 1872. The longest such period was 232 days in 1998.

March 14, 2016 - Near Killarney, MB

Record-Breaking Weekend in Southern Manitoba

Numerous record were broken across the province from March 11-14, 2016 as abnormal warmth spread across the Southern Prairies. In Winnipeg, the event ended up breaking several record types, including record high temperatures, record high dewpoints, and record daily rainfall amounts.

What caused this anomalous event and what was the overall outcome? Read on to find out!

Upper Ridge Brings Anomalous Warmth to the Prairies

GDPS 500mb height anomalies valid the evening of Saturday March 12, 2016
GDPS 500mb height anomalies valid the evening of Saturday March 12, 2016

The entire event was precipitated by an anomalous 500mb ridge over much of North America. This feature introduced a broad southwesterly flow through the western Prairies and northern Plains of the US, allowing mild Pacific air to flood eastwards across the region.

GDPS 850mb temperature anomalies valid the evening of Saturday March 12, 2016
GDPS 850mb temperature anomalies valid the evening of Saturday March 12, 2016

Temperatures ended up well above seasonal values across the entire Prairies. Shown above in the above image, 850mb[1] temperatures were nearly 20°C above normal over southern Manitoba. This translated to very mild temperatures at ground level, with many communities seeing multiple days of record high temperatures.

Southerly Feed Enhances Dew Point Values

Additionally, a weak cut-off low over the central Plains resulted in a enhanced southerly component to low-level winds, which tapped into [relatively] humid air to the south and fed it northwards into the province, evident in the above image that shows that there was a higher-than-normal amount of water in the atmosphere over southern Manitoba.

GDPS precipitable water anomalies valid the evening of Saturday March 12, 2016
GDPS precipitable water anomalies valid the evening of Saturday March 12, 2016

This resulted in seasonally high dew points for the region. Winnipeg ended up breaking two maximum dew point records on Saturday March 13 and Monday March 14. The anomalous moisture also brought a heavy London-like fog to the region on Sunday night which resulted in a fog advisory for the Red River Valley and southeastern Manitoba as near-zero visibilities blanked the area for over 8 hours.

Wet Transition Out of Pattern Breaks Daily Rainfall Records

A deep trough began digging into the Western United States on Monday March 14, developing a deep surface trough extending from Northern Alberta all the way to Texas. Ahead of this trough, a southerly feed tapped into moisture-laden air over the southern United States and began pumping it northwards towards Manitoba. As the system organized over the Dakotas on Monday night, it was able to spawn an area of thunderstorms over North Dakota that blossomed into an area of moderate rain as it pushed eastwards through the night.

This area of rain pushed through southern Manitoba on Tuesday morning, dumping anywhere from 10-20mm of rain over the region. This resulted in a new daily rainfall record for Winnipeg, breaking the prior record of nearly 70 years.

Record Values

In Winnipeg, 4 records were broken through the period of March 11-15, 2016:

  1. Record high temperature in Winnipeg on Saturday, March 12 (New 12.2°C, old 9.7°C set in 2012)
  2. Record high dewpoint in Winnipeg on Sunday, March 13 (new 7.6°C, old 6.7°C set in 2010)
  3. Record high dewpoint in Winnipeg on Monday, March 14 (new 7.7°C, old 6.2°C set in 2012)
  4. Daily rainfall record in Winnipeg on Tuesday, March 15 (New 15.6 mm, old 11.4 mm set in 1946)

However, numerous record high temperatures were broken throughout Manitoba over the 4-day span. Of note was Melita’s high of 20.5°C on Monday, March 14, which marked the earliest 20°C temperature in Manitoba, beating out the prior record of March 16, set by 13 communities in 2012.

Significant Daily High Temperatures across Southern Manitoba on Friday March 11, 2016
LocationHigh TemperatureRecord HighRecord High YearType
Gretna14.8°C8.7°C2012New Record High
Melita15.8°C14.6°C2012New Record High
Pilot Mound14.1°C11.8°C2012New Record High
Brandon13.4°C13.5°C1981Near-Record High
Winnipeg11.6°C12.8°C2012Near-Record High
Significant Daily High Temperatures across Southern Manitoba on Saturday March 12, 2016
LocationHigh TemperatureRecord HighRecord High YearType
Brandon12.0°C11.7°C1910New Record High
Gimli8.6°C8.5°C1994New Record High
Gretna13.8°C11.3°C2012New Record High
Melita15.3°C9.8°C2007New Record High
Pilot Mound12.1°C9.9°C2012New Record High
Pinawa12.5°C10.2°C1996New Record High
Winnipeg12.2°C9.7°C2012New Record High
Significant Daily High Temperatures across Southern Manitoba on Sunday March 13, 2016
LocationHigh TemperatureRecord HighRecord High YearType
Melita17.7°C15.5°C2012New Record High
Portage la Prairie15.0°C13°C2012New Record High
Pilot Mound15.0°C13°C2012New Record High
Island Lake12.3°C11.2°C2010New Record High
The Pas11.4°C11.1°C1929New Record High
Thompson10.1°C9.6°C2012New Record High
Brandon15.2°C15.2°C2012Tied Record High
Berens River9.3°C10.4°C2012Near-Record High
Fisher Branch7.1°C9°C2012Near-Record High
Gretna11.4°C12.3°C2012Near-Record High
Norway House8.2°C8.8°C2010Near-Record High
Significant Daily High Temperatures across Southern Manitoba on Monday March 14, 2016
LocationHigh TemperatureRecord HighRecord High YearType
Melita20.5°C[2]14.8°C2015New Record High
Brandon17.9°C15.0°C2015New Record High
Portage la Prairie17.1°C16.6°C2015New Record High
Pilot Mound15.9°C14.4°C2015New Record High
Pinawa15.5°C13.3°C2015New Record High
Sprague15.5°C12.6°C2015New Record High
Fisher Branch12.7°C12.5°C1981New Record High
Winnipeg13.1°C13.2°C2015Near-Record High
Gimli10.6°C11.8°C1981Near-Record High
Gretna14.4°C15.8°C2015Near-Record High
Significant Weather Events in Winnipeg, March 11-15, 2016
DateRecord TypeValueRecord ValueRecord Year
March 11Near-Record High Temperature11.6°C12.8°C2012
March 12New Record High Temperature12.2°C9.7°C2012
March 13New Record High Dewpoint7.6°C6.7°C2010
March 14New Record High Dewpoint7.7°C6.2°C2012
March 14Near-Record High Temperature13.1°C13.2°C2015
March 15New Daily Rainfall Record15.6 mm11.4 mm1946

  1. 850mb is approximately 1.5km above the ground. This level is favourable to use for temperature anomalies at the moment because it is mostly free of the influences of snow cover.  ↩
  2. Melita’s high temperature of 20.5°C on March 14, 2016 marks the earliest date of a ≥ 20°C temperature in Manitoba. The prior record occurred across 13 sites in the province on March 16, 2012.  ↩
Violent wedge tornado near Tilston, Manitoba on July 27th, 2015 at approximately 8:49 pm local time.

Major Tornado Tears Across Southwestern Manitoba

After a prolonged period of hot and humid weather across Southern Manitoba, a frontal wave pushing eastwards triggered numerous severe thunderstorms across southeastern Saskatchewan and southwestern Manitoba. None was worse than a thunderstorm that exploded over southwestern Manitoba and rapidly developed into a massive supercell thunderstorm. After a short while, this storm organized and produced its first tornado; this would end up being just one of numerous touchdowns over the course of the following 3 hours. The tornadoes this supercell thunderstorm produced were staggering in their intensity; perhaps most notably was the tornado it produced near Tilston, Manitoba whose size and power shocked even veteran storm chasers.

Pre-Storm Setup

Forecasters knew days ahead of time that Monday had the potential to be a significant day across southeastern Saskatchewan and southwestern Manitoba. A cold front that had pushed eastwards across the Prairies over the prior couple days stalled out over the Saskatchewan-Manitoba border on Sunday as a strong jet crashing in over the west coast dug into the upper-level trough, deepening and tilting it while the upper-level ridge built over eastern Manitoba in response. This allowed even more heat and moisture to build over the region at the end of a week that had already seen dew points regularly above 20°C with temperatures climbing into the upper 20’s or low 30’s. On Monday, a shortwave ejected out of the trough and lifted northeastwards, temporarily reversing the cold front and transforming the boundary into a nearly-stationary warm front. As the shortwave moved through the region, it triggered the thunderstorms and began to sweep the frontal wave off to the east-northeast.

On Sunday, it was already looking conditionally likely for tornadogenesis in any thunderstorms that developed over southwestern Manitoba. Pulled directly from the PASPC Significant Weather Discussion:

SIGNIFICANT WEATHER DISCUSSION ISSUED BY THE PRAIRIE AND ARCTIC STORM PREDICTION CENTRE OF ENVIRONMENT CANADA AT 2:00 PM CDT SUNDAY JULY 26 2015.

[…]

Eastern Prairies… The light southerlies are bringing even more heat and humidity. Most areas, especially the Red River Valley, look to be a degree or two warmer today and that will push humidex values into the low fourties today. A heat warning as thus been issued for the Red River Valley and Central Interlake. As of 18Z values are already between 36 and 38. The heat continues Monday but should be below 40 in most localities.

Meanwhile, the cold front from the low in Central Saskatchewan will lie along the Manitoba/Saskatchewan border by early afternoon today at which point its eastward progression begins to slow dramatically. This feature will be the focus of nearly all severe weather potential for the next 48 hours. Ahead of the front in Southern Manitoba, MLCAPE values increase to 2000 to 2500 J/kg this afternoon with 30-40 knots of deep layer shear. While the jet maxima remains well to the west, there are still 40 knot southwesterlies at 500mb and 40 knot southerlies at 850mb pushing in from the Dakotas. This could produce a few more supercells as it did Saturday over Alberta and Western Saskatchewan. However, continued warm air advection all the way up to 700mb makes most of the south capped for the day – particularly so in the extreme southeastern corner. Terrain and remnant outflow interactions closest to the front make the Westman and Interlake areas the most likely to see severe thunderstorms but overall the risk looks moderate this afternoon and early evening if the cap breaks.

A new low pressure system develops rapidly late Sunday in Eastern Montana bringing strong easterly winds in the low levels to the International Border areas in Southeast Saskatchewan and Southern Manitoba Monday afternoon. Hodographs have impressively veering profiles with up to 55 knots of deep layer shear accompanied by 2500 J/kg MLCAPE. This has potential to develop tornadic supercells, with forecast 0-3KM EHI values of 4+ and SIGTOR of up to 2 in the area with even higher values south of the border. However, this is all very conditional at the moment, as strong thunderstorm development today or tonight could shift boundaries somewhat or consume much of the instability over the area. Cloud cover in general could also be an issue for daytime heating, both from remnant overnight cells but also from the upper level jet closing in from the west. Finally, the same strong low level advections are building a very strong cap of -100 J/kg or stronger. Once again, regardless of daytime activity, this same setup is promising for severe elevated convection for Manitoba south of the Interlake and the Estevan area Monday night.

[…]

It was clear that there was going to be a heightened and dangerous severe weather potential on Monday. By Monday afternoon, things had become even more clear:

SIGNIFICANT WEATHER DISCUSSION ISSUED BY THE PRAIRIE AND ARCTIC STORM PREDICTION CENTRE OF ENVIRONMENT CANADA AT 2:00 PM CDT MONDAY JULY 27 2015.

Eastern Prairies… This afternoon looks like a repeat of yesterday for heat and humidity in the Red River Valley and East. Temperatures are already in the high twenties with dewpoints in the low twenties, making it feel like the mid thirties as of early this afternoon. The heat warning has thus been issued for the area for one more day.

The main weather story is the rapid development of the low pressure system in Eastern Montana. While there was uncertainty yesterday about the placement and motion of the low, nocturnal thunderstorm activity in the warm sector was very quiet, and satellite has borne out the extremely sharp and digging trough over the west predicted by most models. Surface analyses early this morning shows the low placement as forecast and is bearing out the early stages of northwestward movement and deepening as well. Ongoing convection leftover from this morning has weakened substantially and will continue to move northward with the rapid lifting of the warm front and the tilting of the jet.

Thus, many of the conditions potentially preventing the development of more significant severe weather in southeast Saskatchewan and Southwest Manitoba have been removed. Over the Montana low itself, skies are partly cloudy so it does look like many areas will see some sun today. A plume of 20 degree dewpoints is expected to wrap around the low, intersecting steepest mid level lapse rates with good surface convergence at the warm front about the Carlyle area early this afternoon. Hodographs here now have even more impressively veering profiles compared to yesterday, still with up to 55 knots of deep layer shear accompanied by 2500 J/kg MLCAPE. Thus, the potential for tornadic supercells continues to rise for the afternoon hours. 0-3 KM EHI are currently 5+ with SIGTOR values still climbing towards 1 early this afternoon. Models are in excellent agreement, with values quickly falling off below 0.5 in about 150km radius on all sides. As a result, a tornado watch has been issued for the Carlyle region for this afternoon. The threat for tornadoes will likely persist in extreme southeastern regions until the early evening hours.

All that remains is the capping inversion, which is weaker but still present – again weakest around Carlyle with only -20 J/kg MLCIN by 21Z, and rapidly increasing to -100 J/kg to the northeast and northwest. A few models trigger afternoon storms about these upper features and surface outflow, but still in the same area. The HRRR and 4km NAM seem to delay the onset of the convection until 00Z or 01Z this evening by which time the upper ridging has pushed eastwards into Manitoba. At any rate, supercell development will be rapid where it occurs and quickly transition into a much larger linear system building north and east. All this warrants a moderate to high risk of severe thunderstorms with potential for tornadoes, significatn large hail, winds and rain in an area bounded by Coronach, Broadview and Pilot Mound. A slight risk is warranted northeast to the Regina area and north to Yorkton, where likely more elevated storms could still pose a wind, hail and rain threat into the evening. Severe thunderstorm watches may need to be expanded for these regions later today if such threats become slightly more probable.

[…]

By midday Monday, it was clear that most of the factors that would work against severe thunderstorm development did not materialize, and a significant threat for tornado-producing supercells existed in Southeastern Saskatchewan and Southwestern Manitoba.

Touchdown: Tilston, Manitoba

The primary supercell that became the main focus for Monday evening initiated near Carnduff, SK at around 7:00PM CDT. It was relatively weak initially, wrestling with a couple other storm cells trying to initiate nearby as it moved onto the Manitoba side. As it passed by Gainsborogh and Pierson, the cells merged and organized and rapidly intensified. The first funnel cloud developed near Edward, MB:

The funnel formed and dissipated a few times as the low-level inflow organized, and then reformed and developed into a significant tornado near Tilston:

The tornado continued to grow in size & intensity as it continued northeastwards. As the supercell continued to organize itself, extremely impressive velocities began to show up on doppler RADAR:

Doppler Velocities from the Minot AFB NEXRAD Site at 9:41PM CDT
Doppler Velocities from the Minot AFB NEXRAD Site at 9:41PM CDT

Despite the height of the RADAR beam in the storm at this time, this velocity couplet1 clearly indicated a major event underway. As it progressed to the northeast, the storm developed into a large, multi-vortex tornado:

Terrifying Intensity

There’s no question that this tornado was one of the more powerful tornadoes in Canadian history.2 While the tornado was on the ground near Tilston, it grew into a massive circulation that had multiple tornadoes embedded within it:

Shortly after this stage, the tornado became rain-wrapped.3 Tracking various reports alongside the velocity couplet visible on doppler RADAR, the tornado-producing portion of the storm appears to have tracked from just southeast of Tilston north-northeastwards to between Reston and Cromer. It then took a slight jog eastwards and tracked along a line from between Pipestone and Scarth to east of Virden to just south-southeast of Crandall. After this point, the circulation weakens and the storm loses it’s organized tornado-producing capacity.

The thunderstorm’s circulation was not completely consistent throughout, though, and showed signs of cycling. This means that instead of one tornado being on the ground for a long time, it likely produced several tornadoes and had periods with no tornado present. There is no question, though, that when it was on the ground, it was a historic event. A simple sign of how intense it was? Reed Timmer, someone who has made a living off planting himself in the middle of some of the largest tornadoes the United States has seen, showed noticeable anxiety as his team got close to this tornado. As a caution, this video contains strong language.

Clean-Up Underway

Little in the way of damage was observed on Monday night; with the tornado occurring so late in the day. There were a few early indicators that this tornado was very strong, including asphalt ripped right off a bridge:

Come Tuesday morning, though, more signs began to roll in of the damage:

For now, the clean-up continues for the few people that were affected by it and the rest of us can be thankful that, somehow, this long-tracked tornadic thunderstorm managed to miss almost all population centers in the region.

Environment Canada Rates Tilston Tornado High-End EF2

At 5:38PM CDT on Wednesday, July 29th 2015, Environment Canada issued a preliminary rating of a high-end EF2 to the Tilston tornado:

AWCN11 CWWG 292238
WEATHER SUMMARY FOR SOUTHERN MANITOBA ISSUED BY ENVIRONMENT CANADA AT 5:38 P.M. CDT WEDNESDAY 29 JULY 2015.

ON THE EVENING OF JULY 27, 2015, A TORNADIC SUPERCELL DEVELOPED NEAR PIERSON TRACKING NORTHEASTWARDS TO VIRDEN BY 11:00 PM. THE STORM EXHIBITING STRONG ROTATION ON RADAR FOR OVER TWO HOURS AND PRODUCED A LARGE VIOLENT TORNADO NEAR TILSTON, MANITOBA.

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRELIMINARY SUMMARY OF THE TILSTON TORNADO. FURTHER INFORMATION WILL FOLLOW FROM THE ON-SITE ASSESSMENT BY ENVIRONMENT CANADA METEOROLOGISTS.

PRELIMINARY STORM ASSESSMENT:
EVENT TYPE: TORNADO
START TIME: JULY 27, 2015 8:30 PM CDT
PRELIMINARY RATING: HIGH END EF2
LOCATION: NEAR ROUTE 254 BETWEEN PIERSON AND TILSTON

ENVIRONMENT CANADA METEOROLOGISTS CONTINUE TO SURVEY THE AREA AND ARE ACTIVELY SEEKING PICTURES OF THE TORNADO OR DAMAGE IT MAY HAVE CAUSED. SHOULD YOU HAVE ANY INFORMATION REGARDING THIS EVENT, OR TO REPORT SEVERE WEATHER AT ANY TIME, PLEASE CALL 1-800-239-0484 OR SEND AN EMAIL TO STORM(AT)EC.GC.CA.

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS SUMMARY MAY CONTAIN PRELIMINARY OR UNOFFICIAL INFORMATION AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE A COMPLETE OR FINAL REPORT.

END

This may be changed in the future as more information becomes available to Environment Canada. As we said earlier, with the EF scale determined by damage, and with the Tilston tornado moving over such a sparse area, there may be insufficient evidence to rank how strong it actually was.

Chase Diary #1: Matthieu Desorcy

Part of the A Weather Moment team went out to storm chase on Monday. Here’s how the day unfolded in his own words.


Storm Chase Log – July 27, 2015
by Matthieu Desorcy

Well, it was quite the chase day in southeast Saskatchewan and southwestern Manitoba. It all started off leading into the weekend when models began showing some tornado potential and there was fairly good consistency between runs in the region of concern. A few of us, including another AWM member – Scott Kehler, decided to take the day off make the drive out west and go chasing.

On the morning of July 27th, our group left Winnipeg around 10:30AM make our way to southeast Saskatchewan, where we expected storms to initiate. The setup looked promising from the get-go early in the morning as most of the MCS activity stayed well north of our target area and little cloud prohibited surface heating from happening, allowing the warm front to lift into southeast Saskatchewan. Not knowing exactly which town we were targeting, we headed down along highway 2 all the way to Souris to start off where we had our usual chase day lunch – Subway. Knowing that the cap would hold strong until early evening, we weren’t in a huge rush to get to southeast Saskatchewan. We made a quick analysis which revealed by early afternoon the warm front was already across the border and was visible as a fine line on Foxwarren radar as well as Glasgow radar, stretching from southwest to northeast. We then decided to head to Redvers, SK, which was located just south of the warm front.

Inflow winds were gusting into the storm at a speed of an estimated 70-80km/h – the strongest inflow I’ve ever felt.

When we arrived in Redvers it was obvious the warm front was nearby – the wind came from the east southeast and the air felt “chillier” than just to the south in Carievale, SK. After observing several attempts of towering cumulus trying to break the cap, then moving north of the warm front and dying off near Redvers the setup suddenly wasn’t looking too promising. The cap was holding strong. Resisting the urge to relocate to another area further southwest we held strong in Redvers while getting a nice suntan and living from radar scan to radar scan.
It suddenly started to get exciting in the mid-evening. A few radar echoes began to show up south of Carnduff, SK near the international border which gave us hope the disturbed area would be able to get its act together and break the cap. In addition to the new echoes on radar, we observed some high level cirrus which implied that ascent was beginning to take place, associated with a shortwave we had identified earlier, moving into the region. This would give storms the extra push they needed to break the cap.

Echoes steadily strengthened from scan to scan and finally it was obvious that the storm had broken the cap – it had tops exceeding 50,000 feet. We watched the storm as it grew and slowly moved northwards, organizing itself and finally producing the first wall cloud of the day – the chase was on. Around 7:30PM the wall cloud really beefed up in the same area – a bowl formed and one side of the wall cloud was rising rapidly into the updraft. After watching it for a good 20 minutes the storm had appeared like it gusted itself out, the wall cloud disappeared and the base was higher. Taking advantage of the opportunity and knowing that nothing was imminent, we relocated to a location just north of Gainsborough, SK. Here we watched it for another 20 minutes as the supercell cycled wall clouds and produced what appeared to be a funnel.

As the storm slowly moved north northeast it moved away from us – we once again repositioned, this time on the Manitoba side, to the southeast of the storm not too far from Pierson, MB. This is when we noticed that things were really getting serious and potentially dangerous for surrounding communities. Minot radar showed that the storm had really tightened up its rotation. Once we were able to stop and take a close look at the storm. We noticed that a tornado was already in progress – and a large one that that, around 8:30pm northwest of Melita. We watched it for a good 20 to 30 minutes in the middle of nowhere in southwestern Manitoba northwest of Melita, snapping pictures amazed at what we were seeing a wedge tornado, here in the province of Manitoba. Inflow winds were gusting into the storm at a speed of an estimated 70-80km/h – the strongest inflow I’ve ever felt. It was obvious that the storm was moving away from us so we decided to move once again, this time to the north of Melita. By this time (9:20pm) we could not see the tornado anymore but the tornado could have been rain-wrapped. We cautiously watched the storm from the comfort of our car as cloud to ground lightning intensified and positive strikes coming out of the anvil peppered the area just to our north. By this time it was getting dark and the circulation would have been rain-wrapped – we watched the storm for a while longer and decided to call it a day as it was getting too dangerous to chase in the dark.

This was one of the stronger storms any of us had ever seen in person and will be a chase to remember for a long time to come!

Chase Diary #2: Justin Hobson

In addition to Matt, friend of the site Justin Hobson was also out chasing that day. Here’s what he experienced:


Tilston, MB Chase Log
by Justin Hobson

We started the day in Oxbow, Saskatchewan where we dealt with tropical conditions as temperatures shot up near 30 degrees with dew points in the low 20’s. A deepening low pressure system was located to the southwest of us over northeast Montana and winds increased out of the east throughout the afternoon. A warm front was anchored from the southwest to the northeast across extreme southeast Saskatchewan and storms started to fire around 6 pm where they then rapidly intensified. There was some cell interaction going on at first due to the forcing that came in but one supercell was able to survive and latch on to the warm front around 8 pm (Manitoba time) where it became tornadic over the next 2-3 hours.

We caught a glimpse of a brief rope tornado while driving around 8:25 pm. We kept heading north where we then witnessed a violent stovepipe tornado at about 8:30 pm. This stovepipe then transitioned into a multi-vortex tornado which then got wrapped in rain where it appeared to have dissipated. We then repositioned ourselves for the new occlusion just to the northeast of the old circulation. Shortly after, we saw another tornado develop which started off as a large cone. This cone tornado quickly wedged out and grew to about 1/2 mile in size. This wedge lasted for a few minutes before becoming rain-wrapped as the sun set. It then continued to move to the northeast very slowly for another hour or so towards the Virden/Oak Lake area. What a day!


  1. A velocity couplet is a tightly packed region of velocities directed towards the RADAR site and away from the RADAR site. If oriented properly, they indicate rotation of a thunderstorm.

  2. While it’s incredibly fortunate that it appears the tornado-producing part of the storm managed to miss practically every town and settlement in the region, it may mean that there isn’t sufficient evidence to fully assess the strength of the tornado. The EF scale is dependent on damage, and if the tornadoes didn’t pass over many structures to damage, it may have to be rated lower than its actual strength despite strong visual cues that suggest otherwise.

  3. Rain-wrapped means that the precipitation from the thunderstorm has literally wrapped all the way around the tornado, obscuring it from view.