El Nino could mean early spring

MOOSE JAW, Sask. — The warm, dry weather that most of the Prairies are enjoying is exactly what forecasters expected, says David Phillips, Canada’s senior climatologist.

“Clearly this is an El Nino kind of a situation,” he told reporters at the Prairie Oat Growers Association’s annual meeting. “Typically it comes at this time of the year.”

There have been seven super El Ninos since 1950, and this is one is likely to be the Godzilla of them all, he said. It has been 18 years since the last one in 1997-98.

El Ninos come when Pacific Ocean temperatures warm to at least half a degree above normal. This year, the temperatures are 3.1 degrees higher than normal, he said.

This doesn’t mean winter is cancelled, Phillips said. There will be cold days and there will be snow — there is an 85 to 95 percent chance of a white Christmas in Saskatchewan — but winter is already shorter than it usually is.

He also said farmers shouldn’t be too concerned about a drier winter because winter precipitation accounts for only 20 percent of annual precipitation.

It could mean getting into fields earlier and fewer flooding issues for grain farmers. Ranchers might be able to graze longer.

However, Phillips said there are no guarantees .

Six of the seven super El Ninos produced a warmer than normal winter, but one was colder. Five were drier than normal but one was normal and one was wetter.

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