‘Supreme growing conditions’ for West expected

RED DEER — Western Canadian farmers may get into their fields earlier this year, thanks to the warming effects of El Nino.

“You have had a lot of cold springs and this is going to be a nice warm one,” said Art Douglas, a climatologist and professor emeritus from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.

Douglas provides long-range forecasts to commodity groups and researches climate patterns. He is predicting more storms and wild weather for the United States, but Western Canada can expect near ideal growing conditions.

“I would say your growing season will be a pretty supreme growing season compared to what is going to happen in the United States,” he told the Alberta Beef Industry conference, which was held in Red Deer Feb. 17-18.

British Columbia is likely to be dry during the growing season with 50 to 100 less millimetres of precipitation than normal.

Alberta and Saskatchewan are expected to be normal to slightly above with 25 more millimetres of moisture than usual.

Douglas is predicting a hot summer in the U.S. corn belt for the first time in four years. The markets would be affected if the crop becomes stressed.

August is expected to be especially hot and some of that heat could spread north, but no intense drought is expected.

Eastern Saskatchewan and Manitoba may endure a wet September, but October should be dry and warm.

The current El Nino has significantly affected global weather for the past two years. There is evidence it is winding down, but some forecast groups suggest that a moderate El Nino could return in fall because warm water is returning to the central Pacific Ocean.

“The newest models for the central Pacific indicates El Nino is going to come back,” he said.

“Something is going on here. The idea of three years in a row of El Nino is quite exceptional. You would have to go back to 1939 to 1942 to get this type of event.… Something is a little screwed up in the terms of weather patterns.”

The current El Nino is one of the top two or three events on record. The last two powerful ones were in 1982 and 1997-98.

El Ninos occur when warm water on the equator heats the atmosphere, which results in more evaporation. This creates convection currents above the warm water pool, which causes drought in Indonesia, northern Brazil, Australia and South Africa.

Wet conditions in southeastern South America, especially in Argentina, were common during this El Nino.

“El Nino has a broad impact on worldwide weather patterns,” he said.

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