Only on the Canadian prairies would you look at a return to normal seasonal temperatures of –12 as a reprieve. But that’s what we’re in for in the Humboldt area and across much of the province over the next few days. A retreating jet stream is dragging cold air out of the central plains, says Environment and Climate Change Climatologist Terri Lang. A bit of cloud cover coming in from the northeast will blanket the region and trap warmer air near the surface. Then the retreating cold air will bring definite relief by the weekend. 

“We’re not quite out of it yet. We’ve got a bit of a reprieve with some cloud coming in from the northeast which is a bit unusual,” said Lang. “The cloud acts a bit like a blanket and keeps things relatively warmer.” 

With one more cold night in store, things should start to make a turn this weekend into a more sustained stretch of normal temperatures.  

“The January cold snap was brought on by ... well, winter. It was late in arriving, but it was the usual push of cold air from the arctic. The jet stream was sent way to the south, and that means we get into the really cold air and not a lot of snow with it.” 

She acknowledged the downward shift in temperature did change the landscape from November’s brown to more winter-like vistas. That plunging jet stream was also responsible for the havoc reported in American states as far south as Georgia and Louisiana.   

The jet stream is now receding to the northeast, allowing warmer air back onto the prairies. 

“We have a big ridge of high pressure, sort of like an upside down “U” that’s going to push up. Once we get on the other side, we’ll have some of the warmer air starting to move in. It looks like we’ll be into a more decent air flow with seasonal values for this time of year – minus 12 for highs and minus 24 for overnight lows.” 

Lang says the temperatures might get even warmer toward the end of the month, the usual time for what she calls the “bonspiel thaw” toward the end of January and beginning of February. She cautions that February is usually one of the coldest months on the prairies, so there will still be some winter left.  

As far as additional snowfall goes, Lang says there’s little to indicate added inches. 

“Usually in the winter, we get accumulations from smaller systems, like Alberta Clippers moving through. Those usually give only 2-5 centimetres, whereas it’s the big Colorado lows that tend to bring in the heavy snowfalls. We’re not seeing anything like that, but those tend to show up later on in the winter.” 

If that snowfall does arrive late February to early March, it will likely be welcome given the dry conditions that have persisted through much of the province.