Messy Wednesday Morning Leads to Wind & Warmth

Winnipeg will likely see a messy commute on Wednesday morning as a warm front pushes through and brings the potential for some rather intense snow. Behind the front, however, gusty westerly winds will bring very mild weather to the province with temperatures climbing above freezing. This transition will lead into a fairly warm spell that will persist throughout the remainder of the week as multiple disturbances roll through the region.

Snow & Freezing Rain Ahead of Milder Weather

The weather on Wednesday morning will be dominated by a low pressure system and associated warm front that will push through the province Wednesday morning, bringing with it snow, freezing rain and rain to the province. Over western & southwestern Manitoba, precipitation will be a wintery mix of rain, freezing rain and snow. The freezing rain may be fairly intense at times, with total ice accumulations of 2-3mm possible. This will be more than enough to make regional highways treacherous. The freezing rain threat will extend slightly into the southwestern Red River Valley, but will depend significantly on the exact low-level temperature profiles and track of this system. Anyone southwest of Winnipeg in the Red River Valley should stay alert of the potential expansion of freezing rain warnings eastwards.

While light freezing rain is possible throughout the remainder of the Red River Valley, it’s far more likely that the precipitation will fall as snow. To the east of the main band of freezing rain, a swath of fairly intense snow will slump southeastwards overnight and move into the Red River Valley in the morning.

Forecast Sounding for Winnipeg – Wednesday January 27 @ 1400Z
Forecast sounding for Winnipeg early Wednesday morning

This forecast sounding, which shows the forecasted temperature and moisture profile as you move upwards in the atmosphere, is rather telling regarding heavy snowfall:

  1. First is that there is a deep, deep layer of saturation (shown by the red and green lines being close together. Essentially the entire tropopause is forecasted to be saturated with ample synoptic lift moving in. This will provide plenty of moisture for snow generation.
  2. Also revealing is the moist adiabatic profile[1] throughout the mid-to-upper levels of the atmosphere coupled with the cooler advection occurring aloft. This is a fairly traditional profile that often produces widespread embedded convection within the precipitation area.

These two aspects reveal that intense bursts of snow will be likely with this system, resulting in abruptly reduced visibilities and rapid accumulations. The bulk of the snow is expected to fall between 6 and 9AM, with total amounts of 5-10cm possible in Winnipeg and much of the remainder of the Red River Valley. This will likely result in significant delays in the morning commute as drivers battle slippery roads and poor visibility.

The snow will taper off to flurries for the remainder of the morning and then the next phase of the system sets in…

Mild Weather, But Questionably Nice

Behind the warm front, temperatures will continue to climb in Winnipeg to a daytime high of around 2°C as gustier west-northwest to northwest winds move in. The winds will likely climb all the way to around 40-50km/h, making for not exactly pleasant outside weather. As we climb above 0°C, depending on a few different things, the flurries may either stop or transition to some isolated rain showers.

Heading into the evening, the new dominant weather feature will be a very slow-moving cold front gradually slumping southwards through the province. With ample moisture stuck in place and temperatures dropping back below zero, fog and drizzle/freezing drizzle will begin to become a concern. At this point, it looks like the winds will begin to taper off through the evening, becoming relatively light by midnight or so. Once the winds ease, it’s quite likely cloud bases will begin lowering throughout the region with the risk of fog or drizzle developing. The overnight low will sit around -5°C, so if drizzle materializes, it will do so as freezing drizzle.

Thursday will see the Winnipeg and much of the region stuck underneath that pokey front as it begins to stall and push back to the northeast as the next low pressure system begins developing over the western Prairies. Skies will remain mainly cloudy as a slack flow combines with the weak convergence aloft around the front to keep the moisture socked in over the region. With all that low-level moisture stuck in place, the risk for freezing drizzle and/or fog will also continue. Winds will be fairly light and the high will be around -4°C.

GDPS 6hr. QPF divided by precipitation type.
The GDPS model shows a mix of rain, snow and freezing rain over Southern Manitoba late Thursady night.

The next weather system will begin moving in on Thursday night, spreading warmer air eastwards. As a result, temperatures will climb to around -2°C by Friday morning alongside some light snow and a threat of another round of freezing rain, this one primarily for the Red River Valley.

Winter Mix for Friday

Friday will be another mild day with temperatures climbing to +1 or +2°C in the warm sector of the second disturbance impacting us this week. Freezing rain or snow will taper off to cloudy conditions with a chance of some drizzle. At this point there’s wide discrepancies in how much precipitation will fall through Thursday night and Friday morning, with everything from a relatively minor event to a chance for another 5-10cm of snow.

Late in the day as temperatures cool slightly, some lighter snow is possible. Temperatures will drop to around -1°C on Friday night.

Normal daytime highs for Winnipeg at this time of year currently sit at -12°C with typical overnight lows near -22°C.

  1. Moist adiabatic is the "temperature path"—how its temperature changes—that an imaginary parcel of air will follow as it moves up and down in the atmosphere if it is saturated.  ↩


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 Twitter.