The snow that has accumulated this winter over most of Alberta bodes well for soil moisture conditions this spring.
However, anything can happen between now and planting time.
Those are two key messages Alberta Agriculture agro-meteorologist Ralph Wright delivered via recent snow pack reports and a later interview.
“Generally speaking, most of the province north of the Trans-Canada Highway has had near normal or above normal precipitation over the winter,” Wright said.
“It will all translate into moisture in the spring,” he added, though weather will play its usual starring role.
“The nice thing is, there’s no real dry pattern in the province now except for perhaps the south. But this is southern Alberta, right? Trying to assess snow packs relative to normal is pretty tricky business.”
Parts of the central Peace region have snow at depths that occur only once every six to 12 years, according to his data.
Snow pack levels are near once-in-50-year highs across the Swan Hills in northwestern Alberta and in parts of the Clear Hills, with snow 1.5 metres deep in some places.
These average to high snowfalls have been accompanied by relatively mild temperatures and few extended cold periods across the province, said Wright.
He noted in his Jan. 30 report that most of Alberta has had a mild winter. It has been warmest in the western half.
Above zero temperatures and chinook winds had melted most of the snow in the Lethbridge and Taber areas in early February.
Wright said the relevance of a snow pack report as a gauge of spring moisture can be tenuous because weather is unpredictable.
“I think they’re fairly relevant in the fact that it sure is nice to have moisture on the ground. Whether or not that’s going to carry over to being available to the little tiny roots that are popping up at the end of May, that’s another question,” he said.
“But it’s certainly a lot better story than having no snow cover. At least the odds are getting stacked in our favour, for whatever that’s worth. If nothing else, optimism is a great thing to have.”
Steadily increasing daylight might also lend itself to feelings of optimism. Daylight in central Alberta is now increasing 3.5 to four minutes per day, or about 30 minutes a week, and will continue to increase at that pace until the first week of May.