After record-breaking year in Edmonton, warm weather continues into 2024

2023 was the warmest year on record in Edmonton, according Environment and Climate Change Canada. Laura Krause digs into what weather Albertans can brace for in 2024.

The record-breaking warmth in Alberta and Edmonton in particular this winter is a clear sign of climate change, an Environment Canada meteorologist says.

This year Edmonton recorded its warmest May and December since 1880 – the first year data were collected. And 2023 was the warmest year on record for the Edmonton area.

“Basically we were well above normal pretty much every month of the year in the Edmonton area, except for March. March was the only month that we were actually pretty cold,” said Alysa Pederson, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

“We’re looking at climate change causing the planet to warm, and this year in particular, we saw the weather patterns change in such a way that the area in Alberta and across the Prairies, and even across Canada was one of the warmest years on record.”

Every corner of Alberta – from Banff to Lethbridge to Lloydminster – was in the top-six warmest years on record. Calgary saw its second warmest year on record. Northern Alberta was particularly warm.

“If we look back at the entire year, we were the warmest year on record for Edmonton, and actually many places in Alberta,” said Pederson.

Meanwhile, Christie Tucker from Alberta Wildfire says the province is going to be preparing for a worst-case scenario by training more firefighters.

“At the moment we’re training firefighters, getting them ready to go, we have fitness testing this weekend. We want to make sure that all of our firefighters are prepared, trained, positioned, and ready to go because of these conditions, and that’s happening earlier this year because of these conditions we’re looking at,” said Tucker.

“We haven’t had the cold, we haven’t had the snow we would normally see in the winter, and our firefighters work very very hard over the summer and the fall to bring these wildfires that are out there, to extinguish them. But they usually get a little help in the winter by mother nature by bringing a lot of snow and cold and that usually puts an end to the wildfires that are burning. Well the start of 2024 this year, we have 62 wildfires still burning in the province, so that’s a lot higher than we would normally see in the beginning of the year.”

El Niño brings warmth

El Niño – a periodic weather system that brings warm weather to much of North America – is partly to blame. This year, the system began early and strongly.

“We are also in a very strong El Niño right now,” Pederson said. “When we have a strong El Niño, what that means for our part of the world is generally warmer than normal, and drier than normal. And that’s exactly what we’ve seen through the fall and into December.

“Because we are in strong El Niño, we would expect over the winter months, which meteorologically speaking is December, January, February, we expect it to be above normal for the winter, and then drier than normal.”

In Edmonton, less than four centimetres fell throughout December, most of which melted, and no snow was recorded at all in the city in November.

Pederson admits it’s harder to predict precipitation but says Edmonton could remain “dry into the rest of winter here and into spring.”

“Looking at what the weather forecast is, and how dry it has been over the last couple of months, it isn’t too hard to put two and two together and see that yeah, we are really dry.

“To support a better year when it comes to the drought, and dryness and wildfires, we do need to see some precipitation in the form of snow so it melts a little more slowly in the spring, or at least a little bit more rain in the springtime.”

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