Weather patterns, tipping points, and a moisture forecast for early ’24

(Debra Murphy/RealAgriculture)

All eyes are on the skies as this Canadian winter stops and starts and howls and mellows from west to east. For many regions, there’s been snow, storms, rain, a warm up, and cold temps, all within a few weeks of each other.

To get a sense of what’s happening now with weather patterns, and what to expect for moisture in the months ahead, Shaun Haney sits down with Matt Makens, of Makens Weather, to get the lowdown on La Niña (or El Niño?) and more.

Makens says that a weather pattern change is gearing up for the next three weeks, all predicated on what happens with a cold air mass hanging out high above the North Pole. “How that area behaves [in] late December, early January, in this year’s case, is really going to be telling on how much cold we can get to the east or the central areas and how much moisture [the area receives],” he says.

The wild and wet weather happening on the east coast is coming from systems cruising up form the Gulf of Mexico, across Florida, and up to the eastern seaboard. For the Prairies, moisture like that would be very welcome and some storm systems have moved up through Montana and North Dakota, but what happens going forward will all hinge on when this current pattern changes. (more below, including how La Niña and El Niño play in for Prairie moisture)

Makens explains the weather effects  ofEl Niño and La Niña are less predictable for Canadian regions. El Niño tends to bring a warmer bias and La Niña bring sharp cold that tends to hang out and won’t budge. “La Niña used to be a good snow producer for the West in the mountains and Peace region down through the Prairies,” but that’s less sure now, Makens says.

For a few reasons, the next seven to 10 years of La Niña are likely to be drier for Canada, he says.

The El Niño conditions we’re under now is likely to fade relatively quickly, Makens says, probably by spring or early summer, and we may have a La Niña back — but that’s not a locked-in pattern. The chance of moisture for the west will be in the shifts between the two patters, as that oscillation back and forth brings some volatility and could bring some moisture with it.

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