On the heels of Groundhog Day, a meteorologist is predicting a “pretty close to normal” February.
Kyle Fougere meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada said Albertans should expect temperatures to warm up for the next week, but by the end of the month it could get cold again.
“We are going to see these swings where we were just well below normal. Now we’re above normal, and likely towards the end of the month it'll get cold again,” he said.
Fougere said there have been some strong air masses in place including an arctic air mass called a Siberian high that spread across the province over last weekend triggering extreme cold warnings in the northeastern portion of the province.
“(The Siberian high) starts in the Siberia area where you've got this clear air. The earth loses all sorts of heat out to space, and you get this really cold clear air forming with this ridge of high pressure,” he said.
That ridge of high pressure travelled up around Alaska into the Northwest Territories and spread over Alberta, Fougere explained.
“Really typical situation for a cold air outbreak here in Alberta,” he said.
Right now, that cold air mass is “pushing off” and warm westerly winds from the Pacific are spreading out over the province.
“As they go down the slopes of the Rocky Mountains they warm and spread over the province and we get above normal temperatures.
“Basically, we had this strong gradient between temperatures between these two air masses that are taking place. The cold air has just slid out into (other provinces) …but we're fortunate to have these westerly winds bringing this warmer Pacific Air and spreading it over the province right now,” he said.
Unfortunately, Fourgere said these above-normal temperatures are not expected to last.
“Next week, we're expecting things to return towards closer towards normal, and then likely the second half of the month probably would be more likely below normal,” he said.
Fougere is also predicting more storms this month.
Because of the warm Pacific air and the cold arctic air there is a strong temperature gradient across the province. Low-pressure systems form and ride along these temperature gradients and those are what cause the weather, said Fougere.
“So, we are expecting a more active period — we didn't really have much for storms for the first few weeks of January. We're now going to see several low-pressure systems that are going to move through,” he said.
The northern part of the province can expect to see a low-pressure system move through on Friday night and again on Monday with a potential for snow.
Fougere said the central part of the province could see freezing rain on Friday night.
“Precipitation-wise, it's kind of more likely that we’ll probably be above normal for precipitation for the northern parts of the province and then normal or potentially even below normal for southern parts of the province for the month of February,” he said.
When it comes to Balzac Billy not seeing his shadow thus predicting an early spring, Fougere said the groundhog makes no sense in Alberta.
“Because if it did see its shadow and then we did say have another six weeks that would still be an early spring…(The groundhog shadow superstition) is a Pennsylvania tradition and does not apply in Alberta,” he said.
Fougere said spring is defined as when average temperatures start to rise above freezing, and typically that doesn’t happen in central Alberta until the second half of March.
The best forecast Fourgere has for spring right now is a normal spring — and what does a normal spring in Alberta look like?
“I mean, slightly different for every place. One thing that I think people don't realize is that they still have a lot of snow falls in spring,” said Fougere.
The temperature gets warmer, and ice and snow start to melt, but there is also more moisture in the atmosphere and cold air, so things get snowy in April and March, especially in Calgary.
“The nice thing is the sun is starting to move to the north, the days get longer, it does get warmer, but we just tend to have these winter storms that can still affect us in the spring months,” he said.