What if this winter had not been an El Niño special? Would the recent storms have been much worse? 

Environment and Climate Change Canada Meteorologist Natalie Hasell says there's no way to know for sure but outlines the general differences we expect to see in an El Niño winter. 

"If we had not been in El Niño conditions, we might have seen more of these storms. Typically, in an El Niño year, which is the warm phase in the Equatorial Pacific waters, which is also the warm phase for the Southern Prairies, is the warm phase because the jet stream gets pushed further north. And the jet stream has two things where it kind of marks the difference or the change in air mass aloft. So, it's the boundary between air mass. It's also more or less the path that low pressure systems are going to take. If you have a low-pressure system traveling north of you, there's a very good chance you will be in the warm sector of that system." 

Hasell notes this means that the bulk of snow will fall far north of southern Manitoba in such instances. The bulk of the colder temperatures will be far north of us, as well.  

"Had we not been in El Niño, I think we would have seen more of these types of storms crossing at our latitudes. So, more of these giving us greater amounts of snow throughout the season, considering how little snow we've gotten in southern Manitoba.” 

She adds “in December we kind of had to wait for snow till just before Christmas, more or less, although we did have some snow in October and November, but it melted. By the time we got to December, it really felt like we hadn't had very much at all. It's only been a more active period for us in the last two weeks or so." 

While we can't say for certain if this past storm would have been worse, itself, we can say that the overall season would have been far more active if it had not been an El Niño year, with respect to southern prairies and southern Manitoba.