Prairies may benefit from climate change

The eastern Prairies may soon be like porridge in a fairy tale: not too hot and not too cold.

Right now, the eastern Prairies are 24 percent wetter than Alberta and 10 percent warmer, but the region isn’t as hot and humid as Ontario.

If climate change plays out as expected, Manitoba and eastern Saskatchewan may become warmer and wetter but not too hot or wet for growing crops, says David Phillips, the country’s best-known weatherman.

“Manitoba and the eastern Prairies is what I call the ‘Goldilocks’ of situations,” he told Ag Days in Brandon Jan. 21.

“It’s almost like you’re in between. That’s clearly an ad-vantage.”

Other climatologists, including Danny Blair of the University of Winnipeg, have said that Manitoba’s climate may be-come similar to Nebraska in 30 to 50 years.

“Take the warmest season you’ve ever experienced and in 50 years that will be the coldest,” said Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada.

Many experts think Western Canada may be one of the few regions on Earth to benefit from climate change. Additional heat units and a longer growing season may make the Prairies more fertile.

“Canada, on the Prairies, could become an agricultural superpower,” he said.

Climate change may present an opportunity, but western Canadian farmers will have to adjust by adopting crops and technology appropriate for a warmer, wetter and wilder climate.

Younger producers will need to take calculated risks, but they need to use the right information, Phillips said.

“We shouldn’t be making agricultural investment decisions based on old data,” he said.

“Don’t look back over decades of time. It’s really the current situation that’s more revealing about what we will see in the years to come.”

Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer are hoping to take advantage of the warming climate because they expect corn acres to jump from 300,000 to eight million in Western Canada.

“I have to believe it (can happen),” Phillips said.

“They (farmers) are saying, my God, the growing season (now) allows me to grow this.”

However, he said future weather on the Prairies won’t be all sunshine and rainbows.

Prolonged droughts are a possibility, and extreme storms are likely.

“It is a good news situation, but I don’t want people … to think it’s all going to be la-la times. There are going to be challenges (for farmers) with bugs and weeds and water.”

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