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Handbook to Winnipeg and the Province of Manitoba
The Climate of Manitoba by R. F. Stupart, Esq.

THE Province of Manitoba is almost in the centre of the continent, about midway between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and also midway between the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic Sea. It is many hundreds of miles distant from any high mountains, and there are no important water areas to the westward. The topographical features of the province are not pronounced. About two-thirds of the total area, including the basins of Lakes Winnipeg and Manitoba, are at a level of less than one thousand feet, while to the westward the levels increase gradually to about sixteen hundred feet, with some few districts a little higher. Its highest uplands are the Porcupine lifts, between 52° and 53° N. (2,500ft.), the Duck Mountain between 51° and 52° N., a portion of the Riding Mountain on about 51° (2,000 ft.), and a portion of the Turtle Mt. immediately north of the 49th parallel (2,300 ft.). To the northward and north-eastward of the province the levels fall away towards Hudson’s Bay.

Such being, in brief, an outline of the geographical and topographical features of the province, it is not surr pr'sing that the climate is typically continental in its character and that such differences as exist between different districts are due chiefly to latitude, and the general meteorology of the zone within which the territory lies.

This one, within which the other Western provinces are also situated, is one of peculiar interest from a meteorological standpoint, inasmuch as the trajectories of a large percentage of the cyclonic, areas moving across America lie within it, and the passing of these disturbances causes some very abrupt temperature changes. The fact also that the maxima of the winter mean pressure is in some years to the northward and in other years to the southward leads to very decided variability in the character of the winter season in different years, some instances of which will be given.

The very pronounced contrast between the continental and littoral type of climate is well evidenced by the fact that the mean range in temperature between the warmest and the coldest months of the year is 68° at Winnipeg, while it is but 21° at Victoria, British Columbia. The absolute recorded range of temperature at Winnipeg is 153°. A change of temperature of 49° in twenty-four hours is not very exceptional in winter in Manitoba, and .a range of 49= has been registered. Very pronounced also are the departures from the normal in corresponding months in different years, there being a January on record with the mean temperature 8° above normal and another with the mean 13° below normal, and a February with a mean temperature 25° above normal and also one with the mean 13° below normal.

The monthly variations from normal are not so pronounced in summer, the mean temperature of the warmest July having been 70°.2 and of the coldest 008.6.

As will be obvious from the figures just given, the change from winter to spring and summer is more rapid than in Great Britain or Western Europe, and frequently an April, which is wintry at the beginning, ends with conditions approaching those of summer. An average April is not so warm a month in Manitoba as it is in England. The season is not, however, so backward as the monthly mean temperatures might seem to indicate. The daily range is large, approximately 25°, and, while the nights are cold, the day temperatures are high; the frost soon leaves the ground and the farmer may commence sowing. The mean temperature of May is as high as in the south of England, with the mean maximum considerably higher, and while frosts occasionally occur they are seldom severe. Light snowfalls also occasionally occur in this month, and at times are accompanied by high winds, but these storms are seldom injurious to agriculture.

The rapid upward trend of the temperature curve continues during June, the average daily maximum of which month is 74° at Winnipeg and 72° at Minnedosa. Warm days with frequent showers produce an almost phenomenally rapid growth, which continues through July, for which month the mean temperature at Winnipeg is 66°, with an average daily maximum of 78°. Few summers go by without several heat spells, during which the temperature rises to 90° or over, and in August, 1886, 103° was recorded in Winnipeg and 104° in the more western districts.

August shews a declining mean temperature after the middle of the month, and the last fortnight is a period of uneasiness among farmers, as it is known that in some years slight frosts have occurred, injuring such crops as were not yet fully ripe. Summer is, however, by no means over, and periods of exceedingly warm weather are not infrequent even in September; it is only occasionally that there are night frosts in that month. October is the true autumn month, during which the temperature curve begins its most rapid decline; and before its close severe frosts are of nightly occurrence, and on some days the temperature may not rise above the freezing point.

The winter may be regarded as of five months duration, viz , from November to the end of March. It is not usually, however, until the last week in November that the temperature falls to zero, and this occurs on a few days only, and it is seldom that zero is registered after March 25th. January, with an average mean temperature of —3*, is colder than February, but in both these months there are generally long spells of exceedingly low temperature, during which for days together the thermometer does not rise above zero. As an example of this, in January, 1883, on twenty-two days the temperature did not reach the zero point, and a minimum reading of —46'’ was recorded. This was, however, exceptional and in marked contrast to January, 1878, when there were only three days tin which the temperature did not rise above zero, and minus readings were registered on but twelve days The most exceptional winter month on record was February, 1878, when the mean temperature was 24° and the temperature fell below zero on but one day. In most years —40° is registered at least once during the winter; —46° has been recorded four times, and —50° was registered on December 24th, 1879.

The snowfall of Manitoba ranges from 52 inches in the eastern districts to 44 inches in the western districts, and while the ground is usually well covered from December to March, it is seldom that the depth is great. In most winters there are several heavy north-west gales succeeding the passage of cyclonic areas, and in these storms, as the temperature drops quickly, accompanied by a blinding drift of the dry snow, we have the well-known blizzard of the prairies.

Winter in Manitoba and in the Canadian West generally is not a season that is dreaded. It is, on the contrary, a season which, with its bright, dry, exhilarating atmosphere, is looked forward to with pleasure by most people. With the cold weather, bright sunshine, extreme dryness and lack of precipitation become the predominating features of the continental interior; 94 hours of sunshine in November and 88 in December increase to 111 in January and 137 in February. As with the increasing cold the humidity diminishes, the electric spark between the body and any conductor bears witness in a striking manner to the extreme dryness of the atmosphere. The thin cirrostratus cloud which frequently overspreads the winter sky when cyclonic areas are passing eastward across the western and northwestern states is peculiarly productive of displays of parhelia ranging from the ordinary “Mock Suns” to the mere intricate and beautiful phenomena which at times include several circles and prismatic colouring.

As might be expected from the general similarity of the face of the country, there are no wide differences in the monthly and annual amounts of precipitation in the different parts of the Province; the mean annual amount for the Province is about 19 inches, the heaviest, about 21 inches, occurring in the extreme eastern portion, and the least about 17 inches in the more southern and western districts. As, however, most of the precipitation, especially the summer rainfall, comes from local storms, there is sometimes a considerable difference in the amounts recorded at places not far distant from each other. Between 9 and 10 inches of rain, or approximately 50% of the total annual precipitation occurs between May and August and is nearly equal to the amount that occurs during the same period in Ontario and in the midland counties of England. At Winnipeg the greatest annual precipitation recorded was 29.24 inches in 1878 and the least 14.38 inches in 1886, in Which year only 4.23 inches fell during the May to August period. Most of the summer rainfall occurs in thunderstorms, which at times are quite heavy, accompanied by violent squalls and, less frequently, by hail. It is but very seldom that these storms attain the energy of the tornado, which is not uncommon on the more heated prairies to the south.

Reference to Table II will show at a glance that Manitoba has plenty of sunshine, and that both summer and winter the percentage of the possible duration is arger than in the older Canadian Provinces or in Great Britain.

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