LETHBRIDGE: Environment Canada's senior climatologist is offering cautionary words about a US based weather service predicting we're going to have one of the coldest winters in 20 years on the prairies.
Country 95 News called www.accuweather.com on Tuesday, to ask for an explanation about a news release e-mailed to our news room from the American weather service. We were asked what state we were in. When we explained we were calling from Lethbridge, they thought that was in south-eastern B.C.
At that point, we decided to get a second opinion and made contact with David Phillips, the senior climatologist with Environment Canada. According to Phillips, he has been flooded with calls over the American predictions and labels the US forecast "irresponsible" and "far too bold." He acknowledged that the predictions contained a number of contradictions, in what appeared to be an effort to cover every eventuality.
Phillips noted that our winter weather forecasting doesn't begin for more than a month. He does expect a slightly colder than normal winter but says, "La Nina this year is weaker, without force and intensity". Phillips went on to note, "It may be, personality wise, like last year but, it may not be as intense and it clearly won't go on as long as last year".
Phillips spoke confidently about it being "A bit of a crap shoot out there, even with La Nina or the opposite El Nino, you're never sure what the case is going to be". He continued, "In Lethbridge for example, in the last 60 years, there have been 16 similar La Nina episodes of this kind and nine of them had a winter that was colder while seven were warmer, so it's not guaranteed, it's not a slam dunk that you're going to have that kind of a winter where it's going to be colder". Also, Phillips quoted dates which show that of the last 16 La Nina's in southern Alberta, 10 were snowier than normal while six were drier.
"When a meteorologist is only as good as his last forecast," Phillips says it was very risky for the U-S weather forecast service to make such bold statements and he doesn't believe the science backs up their prediction". Phillips say he wouldn't bet the family farm on a prediction of this winter being the coldest in the past 20.
Canada's most well-known climatologist says that other American meteorologists he has spoken to are also not as confident about the www.accuweather.com forecast. Phillips explained that seasonal forecasing is a tough business and he believes it's always wise to try and "couch" a forecast to say what we think is going to happen but, be open-minded.
"It's hard to get the forecast right tomorrow or the next day, let alone over a 90-day period and our forecast for the winter doesn't even begin until the first of December," he said. In a final comment from Phillips, he said "It will either make US forecasters look like wizards, or it will make them look foolish. I expect the latter."