City of Edmonton officials say this winter’s “more drastic” temperature swings have been a challenge for snow removal, but one Environment Canada meteorologist regards this winter’s fluctuations as typical.
CBC News analyzed the total number of freeze-thaw days over the last five winters (from December until February) using Environment Canada’s data from the Edmonton Blatchford weather station.
Freeze-thaw days are defined as those “with a high temperature above zero and a low temperature below zero,” according to Environment Canada meteorologist Dan Kulak.
What does the data show?
The number of temperature swings varied substantially over the last five winters.
The city argues that this January saw “more extreme temperature fluctuations and freeze-thaw days compared to years previous,” according to an emailed statement sent Monday.
Compared to last winter, there were two more freeze-thaw days, going from 11 freeze-thaw days in January 2019 to 13 freeze-thaw days this January, Environment Canada data shows.
The number of freeze-thaw days varied over the past five Februarys.
Since February 2016, there have been anywhere from zero to 19 freeze-thaw swings.
Are the temperatures in Edmonton different this winter?
After looking at the data compiled by CBC News, Kulak said this winter (which meteorologists define as December until February) has had an average number of such fluctuations.
“I don’t think there’s a big discrepancy between the freeze-thaw cycle or overall pattern this winter versus some other years, maybe the exception of February a year ago when it was just so bitter cold,” he said Monday.
The city said Monday in an email that it defines winter as October to April.
“Generally, we define winter as October to April, but as Edmontonians know snow events could happen in September and as late as May,” city communications advisor Zak Fairbrother wrote in an email.
Overall, Kulak said, this winter’s temperatures are not substantially different than previous years.
“Even with the cold snap Edmontonians and much of Alberta endeared in the month of January, some of the numbers still suggest overall the winter season was not that harsh,” he said. “It was relatively near normal, maybe even above normal, for some areas.”
How does the freeze-thaw affect city roads?
The city said changes in temperatures this winter have made snow removal difficult.
“Temperature fluctuations have been more drastic this winter compared to the winter of 2018-2019, particularly in the beginning of this year in January,” Gord Cebryk, deputy manager of city operations, said at the Feb.19 city council meeting.
“These fluctuations cause snow to melt in warmer temperatures, creating ruts and slush in neighbourhoods and roadways which then refreeze in colder temperatures, creating icy conditions and uneven driving conditions.”
Two days later, Cebryk gave council a similar message.
“We are delivering the best service we can, so any changes in the service levels are due to basically the weather changes, and that’s what we’ve been adapting to,” Cebryk said.
What do Edmontonians have to say about the roads?
Many Edmontonians have not been happy with road conditions this winter.
According to city data, more people have complained about snow removal to 311 so far this winter compared to the same time period last year.
Temperature fluctuations have been more drastic this winter compared to the winter of 2018-2019– Gord Cebryk, deputy manager of city operations
Some councillors say they have received more complaints than usual about snow removal.
What happens next?
Council wants the city’s operations branch to re-evaluate its snow clearing policy.
A full report from administration, with any changes, will come to council in June as part of their annual review.