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A year in review: How 2023’s weather conditions have fared in Manitoba

It hasn’t been an easy go for the weather in Manitoba this year. As one expert explains it, like the extreme weather patterns that have gripped the nation, Manitoba has seen its fair share of records broken in 2023.

Dave Philips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada, said it’s been a mismatch of weather conditions going from really cold to a mild December. For this month alone, Philips said it’s about seven degrees warmer than usual — a record he said is leaving residents wondering what’s taking winter so long.

“It really is a good question. Because it certainly hasn’t arrived in (the) province. (Manitoba) often leads the way,” said Philips. “It starts in the north and goes to… Manitoba and then spreads east and west. It just clearly hasn’t been the case.”

With the new year swiftly approaching, Philips reflected on the early months of the year, specifically March which was a month that should’ve seen half of it above zero degrees.

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This year, there weren’t any, said Philips, with temperatures instead below freezing.

“People are screaming, ‘Where is spring?’ The ground (was) frozen… all of a sudden, it’s almost like nature heard you. You went from two of the coldest spring months ever to May and June, the two warmest ever.”

Amid the fluctuating thermostat were nationwide events, from wildfires to smoky conditions that made their way across the border into the United States. A summer of wildfires, however, didn’t seem to touch the prairie provinces as much as other regions, said Philips.

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Despite the hot temperatures — he noted that there were more days over the 30-degree mark in May than in July and August combined — Manitoba had only about 80 per cent of the overall wildfires it would normally have.

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“In Manitoba, if you look at the area burned, compared to the 10-year average, it was only about 70 per cent,” said Philips.

Kirsten Davidson with the Manitoba Lung Association said that the effects of the wildfires, with smoke travelling from across the country, was felt by everyone — even those in good health.

“You can imagine people that have poor lung health, it affects them even more in their day-to-day lives. It’s something we’re very aware of… we encourage people to take a look at the air quality index on a regular basis,” said Davidson.

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I don’t know what the future holds. And I think every year is going to be different. I think that’s a key thing with climate. What we’re seeing is it’s not as consistent anymore.”

Aside from wildfires, Philips touched on the fear many had about flooding — a fear that echoed the flood conditions in the spring of 2022.

While this year didn’t reflect such conditions, Philips noted that a supercell thunderstorm on Aug. 24 did bring a lot of rain to the north of Winnipeg. He estimated the amount to be around 110 millimetres.

It was, he said, more than a month’s worth of rain in about 90 minutes.

“You can count those number of events on one hand and still have more fingers left over. They weren’t not necessarily a big story… even in a dry summer, you’re going to have some of those gully washers that have too much rain in a short period of time,” said Philips.

For the climatologist, 2023 is seen as being the warmest year on record. And across the country, he said over 600 temperature records were set in every region.

As for Winnipeg, Philips said the high average temperature should be around -13 C with the low being at -23 C.

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“You’ve had only one day below -20 (C). You should have had 17 of those suckers.”

— With files from Global’s Iris Dyck.

Click to play video: 'Smoke, Fires and Floods: 2023 was the year of wild weather in Canada'

Smoke, Fires and Floods: 2023 was the year of wild weather in Canada

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