Showers and Thunderstorms, U2, Then More Rain

While the temperatures may not be completely summer-like, today will be a day that indicates a clear shift towards summer weather.  An incoming disturbance will produce widespread convection today with showers and thundershowers covering much of Southern Manitoba.  Pleasant weather should make an appearance for tomorrow’s U2 concert, but Winnipeg will quickly return to rainy weather on Monday as a system that will bring significant challenges to those with housing near the lake moves into the province.

A substantial stacked low pressure system currently positioned just east of Regina is set to move across Southern Manitoba today.  A few factors will combine to produce what could be a fairly interesting afternoon today.  

First, a southerly wind, combined with yesterday’s rain has pushed dewpoints to nearly 10°C throughout the Red River Valley with a relatively deep layer of evidenced by the stratus cloud that has managed to form overnight despite winds of 15-20km/h.  This moisture will provide the fuel needed for thundershowers. 

Secondly, rather cool mid-level temperatures will be in place.  As the low pushes in, temperatures in the mid-levels should drop to -7 to -8°C, which when combined with daytime heating will produce ample instability to get convection initiating.  It is also indicative of fairly low freezing level, which will help in the generation of small hail.

And last but by far not least, the fact that this upper disturbance is stacked on top of a surface low means that there will be significant rotation through the mid and upper levels which will help storms develop rotation.

When these things combine, it’s considered a pretty classic case for cold core funnels.  These funnel clouds do not develop in the classic sense; instead of developing in the rapidly rotating updraft of supercell thunderstorms, they develop through the descent of cold air through a storm that has developed rotation due to significant mid-to-high level spin.  Think of it as a funnel cloud that develops because of how air is coming out of the cloud rather than how air is being ingested into the cloud.

These funnel clouds do have the potential to touch down and become tornadoes.  If they do, they are often extremely short lived (< 1-2 minutes) and are much weaker than the tornadoes that form from supercell thunderstorms.  Any of the storms that could produce a cold core funnel cloud are also extremely likely to be capable of producing hail.

I think that most areas across Southern Manitoba could see hail today, although the threat is biggest in the Red River Valley and east.  Winnipeg and areas south should most likely see pea-sized hail should it develop.  Further east in the Whiteshell and Sprague regions, the potential exists for marginally severe hail (about dime to quarter-sized).

The biggest hindrance to the development of all this is the lack of focus for convection.  With no strong front or trough, convection may simply blow up all over the place instead of in any organized fashion, which will leave all the storms fighting each other for resources.  If this happens, it’s likely that it would quickly blossom into a big area of showers with only the odd lightning strike.

My bet for the Red River Valley is this: low stratus this morning will burn off quickly with the morning sun.  By mid-morning, most areas should be seeing a mix of sun and cloud.  Daytime heating, combined with a weak cap, will initiate the convection earlier than typical, resulting in showers spreading into the Red River Valley around 12-1PM or shortly thereafter.  Any showers that develop in the RRV are just as likely to become thundershowers, and I think there will be numerous funnel clouds today.

As for Sunday and the big U2 concert, it should be quite a pleasant day.  We’ll see a sunny morning give way to a mix of sun and clouds in the afternoon with a daytime highs around 15-17°C.  It will cool off quick in the evening, so make sure to bring a sweater if you’re headed to the concert.

12hr. QPF valid 06Z May 31 from the 06Z May 28 GFS

After that, it looks like a significant low pressure system will track through Southern Manitoba, bringing nothing but headaches and grief for residents on the lakes.  Current indications are for a widespread area receiving 20-40mm of rain with winds potentially as high as 50 gusting to 70 km/h.  This system will do no good for the flood-striken areas near the lakes, and I would suggest that residents in the area should begin to make preparations already as with the strong winds out of the north-east, significant water damming will likely occur on the western to southern beaches.


Brad lives in Winnipeg with his wife and two children and is the founder of A Weather Moment. He has loved weather from a very young age and has followed that passion through his life so far. He received a B.Sc. in Earth Sciences with Specialization in Atmospheric Sciences and is currently employed in the field of meteorology. You can find the author as WeatherInThePeg on Mastodon.

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