State of the Climate – A Stormy Summer 2016

Summer 2016 will be remembered for its intense and frequent thunderstorm activity which caused several tens of millions of dollars in damage across the Prairies. Manitoba experienced its fair share of the action with multiple damaging wind, flooding rain, tornado and damaging hail events – the most some areas have seen in years. Humidity was high, which possibly was one factor that helped fuel a more intense season. Temperatures were pleasant – not too hot and not too chilly. In fact, temperatures averaged bang on normal in Winnipeg.

 Average or TotalDeviation from NormalRank Since 1873
High Temperature24.6°C-0.1Equal to median
Mean Temperature18.4°C0.0Tied 65th warmest
Low Temperature12.2°C+0.2Tied 47th warmest
Rainfall231.5mm-16.0 (-6%)63rd rainiest

Overall, it was a wet summer, except for a few isolated locations. Winnipeg’s airport actually saw slightly drier than normal conditions from June to August, but this was mainly a result of a dry August when storms mostly missed the location. June and July were wetter than normal.

Wet Summer For Most

Thunderstorms were a regular occurrence throughout not only southern Manitoba but also Saskatchewan and Alberta this summer. Severe thunderstorms occurred almost daily across the Prairies with only a handful of days seeing no severe weather.

Thanks to the active weather, rainfall amounts were above normal throughout most of the three Prairie provinces. Only localized portions of northeastern Manitoba, central Saskatchewan and southwestern Alberta saw below normal rainfall. The wettest areas relative to normal were the southern Red River Valley in Manitoba, southwestern Saskatchewan and southeastern and northwestern  Alberta. The following two maps from Canada Drought Watch show percent of normal precipitation and precipitation percentiles for the season since April.

The highest rainfall totals from April 1 to September 8 in southern Manitoba were along the US border in the Killarney to Sprague area where 500 to 750 mm of rain fell. A secondary area of heavier rainfall also occurred east and northeast of Winnipeg with 500 to 650 mm. Letellier took top honours with a whopping 752 mm at the Manitoba Agriculture station. 18 days saw over 20 mm of rain as rounds of heavy rainfall occurred almost every few days. Farmers regularly faced overland flooding on their fields as a result. Other high rainfall totals in the area included Green Ridge with 630 mm, Vita 563 mm, Altona 568 mm, Killarney 520 to 550 mm, Steinbach 530 mm and Morden 490 to 550 mm. High rainfall totals also fell in the Whiteshell area where heavy rains at times caused serious flooding. About 620 mm of rain fell in Falcon Lake and 572 mm in Hadashville during the period. All the above rainfall totals are via Manitoba Agriculture, Manitoba Fire and Cocorahs.

In Winnipeg, rainfall was slightly above average at the airport between April 1 and September 8 with 365 mm. Average for the period is close to 340 mm. Higher totals fell in other parts of the city however, with 420 to 470 mm in western and southern sections.

Year of Severe Thunderstorms and Tornadoes

A total of 16 tornadoes occurred in Manitoba this year; 1 in May, 2 in June, 5 in July and 8 in August. This is up from 11 tornadoes last year and the most tornadoes in a year in a couple of decades (the 1980’s to early 90’s was a busy period). Manitoba also had the most tornadoes in Canada this year. There were a number of multi-tornado-day events including 4 on August 8 and 3 on July 20 and August 3.

There were many notable hail and wind events this summer across southern Manitoba, too many to list. As a result, I have prepared a list below of what I believe were the top 5 events of the summer.

Top Thunderstorm Events

I have listed, in chronological order, what I believe were the top thunderstorm events of the summer in southern Manitoba

June 24/25 Derecho

A rare derecho event occurred from the evening of June 24th into the overnight on June 25th. A severe thunderstorm complex moved in from Montana and raced across southern Manitoba. A derecho is one of the  most intense thunderstorm events with respect to wind. By definition, it is a thunderstorm complex that produces winds of at least 50 knots (93km/h) along a swath at least 400 km long and whose life span exceeds 6 hours. In addition, no longer than 2-3 hours must pass between successive wind reports. These criteria were met during the June 24/25 event. The following map shows AWM`s Convective Outlook Verification for the event and is included here to show where the severe events were recorded.

Verification of the AWM Convective Outlook for Junes 24/25, 2016
Verification of the AWM Convective Outlook for Junes 24/25, 2016 with hail and wind reports overlaid. Additionally, flooding due to rainfall was reported in several locations within the slight risk region.

Winds in excess of 90 km/h occurred in a swath from Melita to Carberry to Carman to Saint Adolphe with the derecho. Melita was pummelled with a maximum recorded gust of 124 km/h! Trees, fences and homes suffered damage. Gusts over 100 km/h occurred in Deloraine (102 km/h), Waskada (107 km/h) and Carberry (102 km/h), and gusts over 90 km/h occurred in Killarney (96 km/h), Somerset (90 km/h), Ninette (90 km/h), Carman (93 km/h), Morris (91 km/h), Sanford (90 km/h) and Saint Adolphe (92 km/h). Damage was widespread and significant with snapped trees, crop damage and other property damage. Streets in some areas were littered with branches and debris the next morning.

A narrow jet (sting jet?) of winds between 90 and 110 km/h also occurred in the Brandon area behind the massive thunderstorm complex around 4 am. This was a very interesting occurrence because these winds occurred behind the storms and would be a great case study project. Brandon airport recorded a gust of 106 km/h with the event. Forrest, just north of Brandon, recorded a gust of 98 km/h. Trees were snapped and uprooted, which caught many by surprise because there was no thunder or lightning and only light sprinkles occurring at the time.

Wind was not the only severe weather with the storms. Toonie sized hail occurred south of Killarney and nickel sized hail in Winnipeg. Flooding was a problem as well. 80 to 100 mm of rain fell in the Killarney area with a swath of 50 to 80 mm northeastward to Elm Creek. Winnipeg received 25 to 40 mm with highest amounts in southern and eastern sections. Estimated wind gusts near 80 km/h also occurred in the south end as the city was brushed by the strongest winds to the south. Another swath of 50 + mm fell from Selkirk southeastward to Falcon Lake. In fact, the Falcon Lake/West Hawk Lake area received an incredible 140 to 160 mm of rain. Flooding was severe with some highways underwater and closed. Lake levels in the area were unusually high.

July 20 Supercells / Long Plain Tornado

A series of severe thunderstorms developed in southwestern Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan after 4 pm and raced eastward through southern Manitoba in the evening.

The storms dropped up to tennis ball sized hail in extreme southeastern Saskatchewan before entering into Manitoba. In Manitoba, numerous funnel clouds were seen with the storms west and southwest of Brandon. Two of these became landspout tornadoes near Hartney. With no damage reported, these were rated EF-0. The main story initially was the hail with toonie to tennis ball sized hail from the Melita to Brandon areas. The City of Brandon was hit hard with hail up to golf ball sized, wind gusts over 80 km/h and up to 40 mm of rain in 1 hour.

The supercells then continued eastward with incredible wind gusts and a damaging tornado south of Portage la Prairie. A summary of wind gusts is provided in the following table:

LocationMaximum Wind Gust (km/h)
Portage Southport138
Selkirk115
Mountainside110
Winnipeg Int'l Airport107
Elm Creek107
Starbuck101
Gretna96
Cartwright95
Carberry94
Deerwood93

The area south of Portage was worst hit with winds over 130 km/h recorded. Widespread and significant damage occurred with trees toppled and uprooted and buildings damaged. A supercell tornado also occurred at the Long Plain FN and New Rosedale Hutterite Colony south of Portage. Buildings were shifted off their foundations, roofs ripped off homes, hydro poles toppled, cars flipped, sheds and farm buildings destroyed and trees were again toppled and uprooted by the tornado. Debris was scattered across fields downwind. The tornado was rated an EF-1. According to CBC, about 150 homes were damaged and some residents remain displaced in September. A video of the tornado from a distance exists here. A timelapse of the storm coming in Winnipeg exists here.

The storm then raced east toward the Winnipeg area. The storm was one of the most ominous storms ever seen with a massive shelf cloud, nearly-constant flashes of lightning and a sky that was almost completely green. Damaging winds occurred with a gust of 107 km/h at Winnipeg International Airport and 115 km/h in Selkirk. Significant damage occurred with trees toppled and some buildings damaged. A roof was partially ripped off an apartment building in north Winnipeg. An estimated 1 million dollars in damage also occurred to a U of M professor`s equipment at the St. Andrews airport. Wind damage also occurred in the Beausejour, Anola, Treherne, Elie and Elm Creek areas. According to Manitoba Hydro [CBC], at peak, 32,000 Manitobans were without power, about 20,000 of which were in Winnipeg.

August 3 Tornado Outbreak

A series of supercell thunderstorms developed in southwestern Manitoba and North Dakota in the afternoon and persisted through the evening. The storms produced numerous tornadoes with three tornadoes in Manitoba: at least one tornado near Glenboro, one tornado west of Morden  and a landspout tornado near Margaret.

The town of Glenboro was lucky as a tornado narrowly missed the town. A tornado formed south of the town after 5 pm and the storm continued to produce a tornado for close to half an hour as it continued northeastward and crossed highway 2. The tornado at one point was a massive wedge tornado northeast of town. Farm sheds and buildings were damaged or destroyed, trees were uprooted and hydro poles were toppled by the tornado. Video of tornado exists here. The storm also dumped 57 mm of rain in 1 hour in Glenboro and 54 mm in 1 hour in Holland to the east. Peak rainfall was just north of Glenboro with a 79 mm storm total recorded at a Weather Farm station.

The Morden area was hit hard by storms moving up from North Dakota. A wind gust of 111 km/h was recorded at the airport. Streets in the city were littered with twigs, branches and toppled trees and shingles were ripped from roofs. Streets were also flooded after 30 to 50 mm of rain fell. A tornado was also seen west of the city in pictures, but no damage directly related to the tornado was ever reported.

Wind damage also occurred in Portage la Prairie, Plum Coulee and Gretna thanks to wind gusts between 80 and 95 km/h.

Storms danced around Winnipeg during this event with only a few mm of rain recorded. Lightning was spectacular however. The storms had just scraped the south end. Saint Adolphe, a short drive south of Winnipeg, recorded 54 mm of rain in 1 hour and a wind gust of 92 km/h. Branches were taken down and some minor flooding was reported.

The low pressure system responsible for the thunderstorms on August 3 also produce slow-moving thunderstorms in the wrap-around portion of the system north of Dauphin. 150 to 190 mm of rain fell in the Ethelbert area in just 6 hours. Flooded fields were reported.

August 8 Tornado Outbreak

Supercell thunderstorms developed in Saskatchewan and moved into southern Manitoba southwest of Riding Mountain National Park, producing the largest tornado outbreak of the year in terms of number of tornadoes. Four tornadoes were confirmed, two of which were rated EF-2 and two rated EF-0. The storms, which tracked from Russell to Erickson, also dumped hail up to tennis ball sized.

Waywayseecappo FN was hit by one of the EF-2 tornadoes. Several homes were damaged or completely destroyed. A school bus was also flipped on its side. Hail up to golf ball sized also fell with the storm. Some residents were evacuated after the storm.

A summary card produced by AWM for the August 8, 2016 tornado outbreak.
A summary card produced by AWM for the August 8, 2016 tornado outbreak.

The other tornadoes were south of Russell, near Elphinstone and near Erickson. The one south of Russell was rated an EF-0 based on tree damage. The one near Elphinstone was also given an EF-0 rating due to no reports of damage. The tornado near Erickson was rated an EF-2. A long swath of forest about 500 metres wide was completely flattened (seen thanks to aerial photos from CBC) and bark ripped off trees. Swirls could be seen in the forest from above, confirming that a tornado indeed produced the damage. The tornado also damaged homes and other buildings in the area. The storms continued southeastward after the last tornado, but weakened.

High Humidity

With an average dewpoint temperature of 13.7°C, summer 2016 tied with 2005 for third most humid summer since 1953 in Winnipeg. Some might think this stat is a little surprising because the summer really wasn’t that hot. In fact, temperatures were only near normal overall and very hot days were few and far between. This was probably a good thing because otherwise, the high humidity combined with hotter temperatures would have made the summer much more unbearable.

July 20 saw the peak humidity of the summer when dewpoint temperatures rose to the 24 to 27°C range across southern Manitoba, breaking records. At Winnipeg Int’l Airport, dewpoint peaked at 25.9°C, the second highest dewpoint reading on record since 1953. The record is 26.1°C on July 17, 1966. Dewpoint temperatures reached an amazing 27°C in Carman, Winkler, Portage, Altona, Beausejour and Minnedosa. The highest reading was in Carman at 27.4°C. The heat and humidity together produced humidex values in the mid 40`s.

Hottest Day of the Year Was Outside of the Summer Season

Consistent with few very hot days this summer, the hottest day of the year was actually outside of the summer season. A high of 35.2°C on May 5th was the hottest of the year and the earliest date to reach the highest temperature of the year on record since 1872. It was also only the 12th time that our hottest day of the year was in May. The high of 35.2°C was also the earliest occurrence of temperature over 35.0°C on record since 1872. Previous earliest was May 8, 1874 with a high of 35.0°C.

RankDateHigh
1May 5, 201535.2°C
2May 7, 189134.4°C
3 (tie)May 13, 193233.3°C
3 (tie)May 13, 197732.6°C
5 (tie)May 19, 194835.0°C
5 (tie)May 19, 199234.2°C

Warm Year and September so Far

The January to August period averaged 5.5°C in Winnipeg, tied with 1999 for 13th warmest on record since 1873. September so far is averaging just over 2 degrees above normal, making this the 14th warmer than normal September in the last 16 years. September has been and seems to continue to be warming at a rapid pace. In fact, September has warmed 1.0°C in the last 20 years, 0.7°C in the last 10 years and 0.5°C in the last 5 years, showing that warming for the month has accelerated in recent years. The 30-year 1987 to 2016 average for September is 13.4°C, up from 12.9°C in the 1981-2010 normal and the warmest Septembers have been on record. There is certainly no guarantee that this warming trend will continue forever, but what is interesting is how rapidly the month has warmed and how rare it has become to experience a chilly September.

Weather Extras for October 10, 2015

Welcome to Weather News This Week, a new feature here on A Weather Moment that will alternate with our existing Elsewhere in Weather News feature. Expect to find a collection of interesting links to writings elsewhere that cover weather events and news as well as advances in the science of meteorology. Let’s get right to it!

Arstechnica took a look at how the language used by climate scientists when talking about climate change differs dramatically from those who oppose them:

[…] language itself is not an indication of the strength of the evidence; it can really only tell us how people are using that evidence to make an argument, and whether they’re doing so tentatively or forcefully. So, looking at how two opposing sides of a scientific argument use language to make their case can tell us something about their thinking.

It can be especially interesting to look at the use of tentative and forceful language in the case of climate change, where the language can be inflammatory. Scientists who describe the likely future path of our habitat often face the accusation of “alarmism.”

Srdan Medimorec and Gordon Pennycook, two graduate school researchers at the University of Waterloo, are interested in how people form beliefs on the basis of argument. They decided to look into the writing of opposing groups—climate scientists and people who refuse to accept the evidence on climate change—to see whether there was a consistent difference in language use.

Over on the Boston Globe, they have a fantastic gallery of images of the historic flooding that occurred in South Carolina.

Flooding around Aberdeen Country Club, on Oct. 6 in Longs. S.C.
Flooding around Aberdeen Country Club, on Oct. 6 in Longs. S.C.. (Janet Blackmon Morgan/The Sun News via AP)

The flooding in South Carolina was some of the worst on record and was a result of a quasi-stationary upper-level low anchored over the southeastern U.S. that was able to tap into moisture from Hurricane Joquain. The result was a band of torrential rain and thunderstorms that remained in place for several days, resulting in absolutely smashed rainfall records for many locations which saw more than 20 in (500+ mm) of rain.

Over on Weather Underground, Bob Henson took a look at why the ECMWF predicted Joquain so well:

On Wednesday, September 30, less than six days from a potential landfall, the ECMWF operational model was consistently keeping Joaquin offshore, even as the GFS and nearly all other models were bringing the hurricane into the U.S. East Coast. From late Wednesday into Thursday, the GFS and other models began to shift toward an offshore track for Joaquin, as the hurricane itself was still diving southwestward into the Bahamas. By Friday, there was virtually unanimous model agreement on the offshore track that proved accurate.

The Globe and Mail ran a feature titled “It’s a lot harder to predict the weather these days” that took a look at how forecasting, both from a meteorological and sociological perspective, has changed:

“People are turning to me less and less for what to wear to work and more for an explanation on the more intense and more frequent weather anomalies,” said Wagstaffe, an on-camera meteorologist for the CBC, Canada’s public broadcaster.

“The audience is getting more hungry for knowledge about what’s happening with the weather, and why. The story about climate change is becoming more interesting and what it will mean for our future.”

How Wagstaffe does her job has also changed. There’s more and better satellite and information technology to work with, but the so-called “normal” weather patterns that acted as benchmark have been out of whack in recent years. That includes this summer, when some of the models used to look at the longer-term forecast had to be ignored because of the hot and dry summer in Western Canada and the soggy and cool conditions in Central and Eastern Canada.

Over on the Winnipeg Weather blog, Julien has compiled a few statistics for Summer 2015 in Winnipeg. The whole thing is worth a read, but he especially made some interesting observations about summer humidity in Winnipeg:

In the last 20 years, 9 years saw a top 10 most humid summer since 1953. Summers have become increasingly humid since the 1990’s and this is easily seen in the graph below. The graph shows the top 20 most and least humid summers (red and blue dots) and the 30-year running mean (green line). Whether or not the increasing humidity is a trend that will continue is unknown. With only 63 years of dewpoint records, there simply isn’t enough data to see if there were similar humid periods in the past.

Top 20 most & kleast humid summers & the 30-year running mean - Winnipeg
Graph showing a trend of increasingly humid summers in Winnipeg. 1980’s normal summer average dewpoint was about 11.5°C. Today’s normal is now close to 12.8°C.

July and August were particularly humid. With an average dewpoint of 16.1°C in July, it was the second most humid July and month on record since 1953. Only July 2012 was more humid with an average dewpoint of 16.5°C. August tied with 2003 for 14th most humid with an average dewpoint of 13.7°C.

That’s it for this week; we’ll be back in a fortnight with more weather-related reading for you!  If you like the idea of this and have any suggestions for format or content, leave us a comment below!

State of the Climate – Meteorological Summer of 2014

As of September 1st, meteorological summer[1] has come to an end and the fall season is upon us. That means, of course, it’s time to take a look back on the summer of 2014 to see just how it fared in the grand scheme of things. Was it actually all that cold, or is that just our memories suffering from the prolonged winter? How wet was it actually? Was it a particularly stormy summer? We’ll take a look at how all of those things fared in Winnipeg as well as highlight a couple major events from the past 3 months across the province!

Meteorological Summer Rankings for Winnipeg International Airport
CategorySummer 2014 Total or AverageRank
Average High Temperature24.3°CTied 51st coldest
Mean Temperature18.2°CTied 67th coldest
Average Low Temperature12.1°CTied 53rd warmest
Total Rainfall276.9 mm29th rainiest
Thunderstorm Days17 daysTied 23rd least

Temperature-wise, there wasn’t much to talk about this summer in southern Manitoba. The summer averaged pretty much bang on normal in most areas, including Winnipeg where the average mean temperature of 18.2°C was just 0.2°C below normal. A similar story in Brandon where the average mean temperature of 17.4°C was just 0.1°C above normal. However, there was a notable lack of very hot days. There were only 5 days above 30°C in Winnipeg, below the normal of 12 days, and the least since 2009 when there were only 3 days over 30°C. Interestingly, the hottest day so far this year was actually in May when we hit a record 33.3°C on May 24th. Although it is not the first time our hottest day of the year was outside of the summer season, it is unusual. The last time this occurred was in 2004 when our hottest day of the year was on September 19th.

August Ends 10-month Cold Streak

Top 5 Longest Streaks of Colder Than Normal Months Since 1872
Rank# of consecutive below normal monthsTimeframe
118 monthsDec 1882-May 1884
214 monthsJul 1884-Aug 1885
311 monthsOct 1887-Aug 1888
410 monthsOct 2013-Jul 2014
59 months1949/50, 2008/09 & 2012/13

August finished 0.5°C above the previous 30-year (1984–2013) average mean temperature of 18.7°C. This marked the end of a 10-month streak, from October 2013 to July 2014, of months colder than the previous 30-year average. This 10-month streak was the 4th longest of its kind since 1872 and the longest since an 11-month streak in 1887–1888.

Summer Flooding

A grand total of 276.9 mm of rain fell at Winnipeg airport June, July and August. Although this may seem like a lot of rain, this is actually only 12% above the 1981–2010 normal of 247.5 mm. So overall, we were pretty close to normal rainfall totals this summer. However, the problem this summer was that the rain was not spread out through the entire season. Rather, the majority of our rain fell in mid-late June and mid-late August. These two periods featured flooding in parts of southern Manitoba as too much rain fell in too little time. In fact, over 130 mm of rain fell in just 17 days in the second half of June at Winnipeg airport. The month finished 12th rainiest on record with 147.1 mm.

Excessive rainfall over southwestern Manitoba this summer resulted in significant flooding along the Assiniboine river. Brandon, MB – pictured above – was one of many communities hit hard by the widespread flooding.
Excessive rainfall over southwestern Manitoba this summer resulted in significant flooding along the Assiniboine river. Brandon, MB – pictured above – was one of many communities hit hard by the widespread flooding.

Conditions were worst in southwestern Manitoba this summer with well above normal rainfall; over 300 mm of rain fell in some of the hardest hit locations. Brandon was one of these locations, receiving a whopping 347.2 mm, almost an entire year’s worth of rain in just 3 months. 251.6 mm of this fell in June alone, Brandon’s rainiest June on record. In fact, 219.8 mm fell in just the last 12 days of June, more than half a year’s worth of rain!

The Year So Far

2014 continues to be much colder than normal. Up to August, the year has averaged 1.7°C; 2.7°C colder than normal for the period. This ties for 17th coldest January to August period on record since 1873, and is the coldest since 1979 when we averaged 0.7°C in the same period. Here’s hoping the year ends on a warmer note!

The monthly and running year-to-date temperature deviation from normal (1981-2010).
The monthly and running year-to-date temperature deviation from normal (1981–2010).

In terms of rainfall, the airport has seen 344.1 mm so far this year (up to August 31), which is pretty much bang on normal for the period. Higher amounts, closer to 400 mm, have fallen in southwestern parts of Winnipeg where heavier rains fell in August.


  1. Metorological summer is considered June, July and August.  ↩