Need to know: Winter has finally arrived in Saskatchewan


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Winter in Saskatchewan is making up for lost time.

After unseasonably warm weather in most of the province through November and December, and virtually no snow in many communities, that’s all changing in 2024. Temperatures throughout the province — including Saskatoon and Regina and areas — are expected to drop to dangerously frigid levels in the coming days.

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The Weather Network is calling for a “drastic change” throughout western Canada, “with significantly colder air moving in from the Arctic this week.”

Saskatoon winter weather
Saskatoon is covered in a layer of snow on a crisp, cold winter morning, Jan. 8, 2023. Photo by Michelle Berg /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

By Wednesday, temperatures in Saskatoon and Regina are forecast to hit daily highs into the low -20s C. Then, through the weekend, daily highs are expected to hover between -25C and -30C, with windchills and overnight lows into the -30s.

“The Arctic floodgates will have opened across the western Prairies, with temperatures diving well below seasonal,” the Weather Network said.

The average daily high this time of year is around -12C, with the average daily low dipping to around -23C.

Further snowfall is also predicted for this week in both areas, according to Environment Canada.

WHAT’S CAUSING THE SUDDEN SHIFT?

According to the Weather Network, the mild weather in December was largely the result of the coldest air in the northern hemisphere stalling over Siberia. Now, “the coldest temperatures relative to normal on the entire globe will be across British Columbia and the western Prairies,” the network noted.

Across the Prairies, a flip in the pattern is opening the gate for frigid air to spill out of the heart of the Arctic Circle. According to the Weather Network, the polar vortex will drive the change.

“This large-scale circulation high above the Arctic acts like a fence, keeping the bitterest chill confined to the higher latitudes. When the polar vortex weakens and grows unstable, those frigid temperatures can spill south,” the Weather Network said.

Daytime highs barely getting above -30C on the Prairies is “an extremely rare feat during an El Nino winter,” the network said.

While daily highs are going to be well below normal across Saskatchewan, the change is even more dramatic in Alberta.

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada meteorologist Paul Silvestro, temperatures in Calgary are expected to drop to around -27C and -28C on Thursday and Friday, respectively. Silvestro said normal daytime highs in Calgary this time of year are around -3C.

Despite the cold snap, Silvestro said Alberta as a whole is still on track for a warmer-than-usual winter thanks to El Nino, the weather pattern that brings warmer and drier conditions.

“But that doesn’t mean that we can’t get cold outbreaks, and certainly we will be getting that later this week as well as into next week,” he said.

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In B.C., Environment Canada is issuing warnings for some key highways, with accumulation of up to 50 centimetres possible in some inland stretches.

— With Canadian Press files

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