Editors Note: Jeff McGirr is a die hard Ontario sledder if there ever was one - if you need more proof than the pic of him waiting for winter on his parents front lawn in August of 1999, then you should read his spot-on prediction of what snowmobilers were in for in the 2013/14 winter. Needless to say, his prediction for the 2014-15 season is out now and read by the thousands of sledders who want to know when they should start prepping their sled for some freshly groomed trails. If you need a reminder of how awesome last winter was, just check the video below.
Over the course of this past summer I was constantly reminded of an important deadline, it would be my responsibility to ‘tune up’ my father in laws Ski-Doo 1200 Renegade. Each BBQ I attended Dave would remind me that the clock was ticking and that winter would surely arrive within 200, then 150, and now less than 125 days. I thought to myself that in his decades of snowmobile experience and living in the north he had spawned some sort of extra sensory perception about when winter would arrive; or maybe it's just his sheer excitement? But most likely this reminder came because he wants to make sure he's the first one out when the trails go from red, to yellow, to green.
Towing my Father-in-Law's Sled
So without further ado, here is my winter 2014-2015 Forecast for the snowmobile season
After our mind-blowingly epic 2013-2014 winter, meteorologists were quick to predict that warm sunny days were on the horizon. Perhaps this was based on historical or new data. Or possibly Rick Mercer had actually discovered their hidden strategic tactic used to keep our interest in the weather from waning.
"But right now, things are looking like a warmer than normal summer from coast to coast to coast," David Phillips, a senior climatologist with Environment Canada, said in an article published May 4th 2014.
“We’re finally seeing a turnaround across central Canada after months of well below normal temperatures,” said Chris Scott, Chief Meteorologist at The Weather Network on June 20th.
But when we look back, the weathermen (and women) were just plain wrong; spring arrived incredibly late in Ontario. We saw unseasonably low temperatures and arguably one of the latest lake thaws in recent history. This came after 90% of the great lakes froze over, something we haven't seen in decades, let alone years.
This is what it looked like on Lake Superior on Memorial Day in the USA:
Can you believe that boaters and beach goers reported ice chunks were being found on the 4th of July weekend floating in Lake Superior?
This late thaw was paired with an abundance of snow which injected fresh, clean cool melt water into the Great Lakes raising water levels in some cases more than a foot according to an article in the New York Times.
This influx of water pleased marinas, cottagers, boaters and the shipping industry immensely, but kept temperatures cooler than average.
The forecasted ‘normal’ summer never arrived in Ontario. Although there have been a few nice days, temperatures were relatively cool and we were spared from the sticky humid heat waves that are generally expected, especially in the densely populated urban regions. While in the east, we were cooling down, western Canada was heating up, with over 20 heat records broken, paired with a significant reduction in average rainfall causing extreme forest fire conditions.
Weather system patterns in Ontario are closely related to the global climate. We often hear about El Nino, a warmer than average Pacific Ocean sea temperature and his sister, La Nina, a cooler than average pacific ocean sea temperature. Many of us will immediately draw the conclusion that El Nino equals a warm winter and La Nina equals a cold winter in Ontario, this is not always the case. The El Nino or La Nina in the pacific determines in part the location of the jet stream and the location of the Jet Stream has a major impact on Ontario’s weather.
The #PolarVortex that we have heard about numerous times over the past year is directly affected by the Jet Stream. Most recently we've witnessed the Jet Stream pulling high up into the sub arctic in western Canada and dropping low into the southern USA towards the east. This flow of air is pulling the #polarvortex south into Ontario and eastern Canada and was somewhat responsible for last winter’s deep freezes.
Recently, articles trended over social media networks warning residents of Northeast North America that another does of the #polarvortex was on its way for September.
"The vortex could slip at times, maybe even briefly in September for the Northeast," AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok said. "There could be a significant shot of chilly air that comes across the Great Lakes region and into the interior Northeast sometime in mid- to late-September."
As a snowmobiler and winter lover the term #PolarVortex excites me, in fact it excites me just as much as #LakeEffect #Blizzard #SnowSquall and #WinterStorm. I’m thrilled meteorologists have brought this term into our conversations and it wouldn’t surprise me if a new snowmobile model or groomer is affectionately named the Polar Vortex in the coming years.
Let’s do a quick recap of some of the key factors that will influence this prediction and determine if we're in for another great winter snowmobile season that will equal or exceed last winter's incredible snowfall and cold.
- The clock is ticking and with less than 125 days before the start of winter, those senior to me are already looking forward to it!
- Summer never really arrived, it was cool and wet. These conditions surely helped a few hardcore snowmobilers pass the time.
- Ontario had a late spring, and snowmobilers rode #ontariosnowtrails into April. Cottage projects were stalled waiting for the ice to melt.
- After years of news reports that the Great Lakes Water Levels were declining, they have risen to close to average / normal levels. Watersport fanatics report that the water is much cooler than in past years.
- It has been hot and dry in the West this summer, much like the weather patterns of the 2013-2014 winter.
- Experts seem to be predicting a weak El Nino (http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-blogs/anderson/the-fall-2014-forecast-for-canada-1/32403312 ) in the coming months, unable to predict it’s strength or when it will effect us.
- The Polar Vortex is coming back. I’m not sure it ever left, however this is a key indication of the location of the Jet Steam.
So what’s the prediction?
Based on my intensive research, and my father-in-law's gut feeling, I believe we're due for back-to-back championship winters, with 2014/15 bringing winter in full force to dish out another banner year of snowfalls, deep cold, and amazing sledding.
Fall will produce cool clear and dry days, providing much needed time for the swamps, creeks and small lakes to drain off excess water.
Winter will arrive like a lion for much of Ontario, however this will not occur until mid/late-November.
The Great Lakes Lakes are full with cool fresh water waiting to feed the jet stream winds which will cause #LakeEffect #SnowSqualls. These localized snow streams will be in full effect early in the season and should produce a great base for our #OntarioSnowTrails. However the squalls will not last as late into the winter season as last year. I’m predicting that we will once again experience the deep cold caused by the #PolarVortex which will in turn cause the Great Lakes to freeze over extending our winter once again into late April.
So, you've heard it here first, before any other outlet has called it (yeah, we're looking at you Farmer's Almanac) - you have less than 125 days to get your sled ready and plan your next big snow tour! What are you waiting for!
For everything you need to know about sledding in Ontario, from trip planning, to trail permits and status, to clubs and events, repairs, sales and rentals, check out THIS IS WINTER.