Monday, March 20, 2023 marked the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere, but don’t bust out the flip flops just yet.

Kyle Fougere meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada said spring is a time with a lot of variability in Alberta and that’s what Albertans can expect over the next two months.

“(Spring) is still a time where we do expect heavy snow falls. The sun is gaining strength and so it can feel really warm on some days and then you can get a cold snap come very quickly,” he said.

Fougere is quick to clear up that Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) follow meteorologist spring, which is based on annual temperature cycles and began on March 1 and ends in May.

The vernal equinox is astronomical spring and, according to the ECCC, is the name given to the moment when the sun passes directly above the equator resulting in world-wide equality in length of day and night. The vernal equinox occurred on March 20, this year.

Fougere said the spring forecast was for a colder spring than is normal and we have certainly seen that through the month of March.

“So far this March, it has been quite cold, quite a bit below normal for Alberta…For the rest of the month… it’s not as cold as it was the start of the month, but we’re going to be near to slightly below normal is the expectation for the rest of this month,” he said.

Things will look a “bit brighter” for the rest of meteorological spring. However, the net result for spring is still likely to be colder than normal, Fougere said, and that is due to the colder than average March.

“It was such a cold start to March. It’ll be tough to make it anything but colder than normal for the spring,” he said.

The reason behind the cool March was La Nina conditions.

“The La Nina is when you have colder than normal temperatures near the equator in the Eastern Pacific,” he said.

Fougere said sea surface temperatures are cold for La Nina and that changes the way the air circulates near the equator which changes the location of our jet stream on average in Western North America.

“It tends to push our jet stream farther to the north, which kind of steers low pressure systems into BC, and then to south. So we end up in the colder air — we have more Arctic intrusions, and you see more of these low pressure systems coming through our area which tends to give us a little bit more precipitation,” he explained.

Those cooler surface temperatures over the eastern pacific are dissipating and the La Nina phase is ending, and we are moving into a neutral phase.

“It just means temperatures have mitigated and they’re now more normal in the eastern Pacific. And it’s no longer expected to have this influence on our on the global circulation patterns,” he said.

April is expected to be normal for temperature across Alberta.

“Then May is looking like it’s going to be warmer than normal,” he said.

As for precipitation in the province, Fougere said they won’t calculate March statistics until the end of the month, but he expects southern Alberta to have above normal precipitation for March.

Fougere notes that “precipitation forecasts at longer timescales tend to have worse accuracy then temperature forecasts do,” but April forecasts for precipitation are an anticipated to be above normal for central and northern parts of the province.”

“For the extreme southern parts like Lethbridge and towards the Cypress Hills. Down in extreme southeastern Alberta we are expecting drier than normal conditions,” he said.

By Jessica Nelson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 20, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   St. Albert Gazette   St. Albert, Alberta

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