While many Winnipeggers were heading to work on Tuesday morning, the mercury was showing it was -22.9C at the Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport.
At the same time, a thermometer at The Forks was indicating it was -15C, an almost eight degree difference.
While the temperature difference isn’t enough to see palm trees growing at The Forks while snow is swirling around planes, Environment Canada’s Dale Marciski said it has caused local weather meteorologists to take a closer look at the situation between the two sites in recent months.
“We wanted to see what the urban heat island effect is here,” Marciski said on Tuesday.
“What we found is in some ways the airport is the worst case scenario and The Forks is the best case and all the rest of us in the city are in-between.”
Marciski said from Nov. 1999, to May 2006, the statistics show the average high temperature is 8.2C at the airport and 8.4C at The Forks, while the average low is -3.4C at the airport and -0.7C at The Forks.
The difference is even more telling during winter at night, with the average temperatures being -19C at the airport and -15.4C at The Forks.
“But I’ve seen it as much as a 10-degree or more difference during the winter,” he said, adding it usually is greatest in winter when the skies are clear and the winds are light.
“The airport is really the middle of the bald Prairies at the northwest end with no vegetation, trees or buildings. Downtown, you have a lot more sources of heat like buildings and vehicles going by.”
And Marciski said the temperature differences are not due to different equipment even though the weather equipment at The Forks was purchased by The Forks and not the country’s weather service, it is calibrated to the same standards as the Environment Canada station at the airport.
Marciski said official Winnipeg temperatures have been taken at the northwest corner of the airport since 1938. Before that, the official temperatures came from the old St. John’s College site on Main Street starting in 1872.
The Forks weather site began operation in November 1999.