A milder, gentler winter forecast for Edmonton

Good news for Edmontonians already dreading the cold and the blizzards of Alberta’s bleak midwinter. 

Environment Canada has issued its seasonal forecasts and the bone-chilling temperatures that gripped the capital city last winter are not expected to be the norm in the season ahead.

Edmonton can expect a milder winter with less precipitation than average, said David Phillips, the national weather agency’s senior climatologist.

It’s a welcome prediction following a gloomy wet summer and one of the coldest Alberta winters on record. 

“The mildness is really the big story,” Phillips said in an interview Tuesday with CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM.

“So many of the forecasts up until now had talked about it being a harsh winter, a cold and snowy winter, a classic winter, the winter of youth kind of thing.

“And especially in Edmonton, you had such a bummer of a summer that I think people were feeling that we just didn’t deserve this.”

The polar ‘wild card’

But don’t ditch your long johns just yet. The “dreaded” polar vortex — a wide expanse of swirling cold air — could still plunge the city into a deep freeze, Phillips said. 

“It will make or break this winter. It’s the scourge. It’s cold Arctic air, Siberian air, and it just sits up there at the top of the pole and spins around there.

“It’s always there but sometimes in the wintertime it weakens, it kind of relaxes and spills southward like an Arctic pipeline.”

The polar vortex is a wild card, Phillips said. Its movements can only be predicted 10 days in advance and the long-term forecast isn’t an exact science.

“This doesn’t mean that we’re not going to have cold fronts and snow dumps,” he said.

“It just means that the character, the personality of the winter ahead is going to be milder than we would normally see.

“Would I bet the family farm or the fishing fleet on the seasonal forecast? No, it’s really talking about probabilities.”