El Nino starting soon, but not in time for seeding

EDMONTON — About one-third of those in the room raised their hands when asked about still having crop in the field on the first day of February.

Most of the approximately 200 farmers indicated it was canola, but some sighed when asked about wheat and lifted their hands again. That reality for many producers will be made harder or easier depending on the weather over the coming eight weeks.

Drew Lerner from Kansas City’s World Weather Inc. brought most of them good news.

He didn’t offer a lot of hope for producers from Manitoba and eastern Saskatchewan who made the trip to Edmonton for Farm Tech, but their crops were nearly all off the fields.

For almost everyone else, news of an impending El Nino came as a relief from an otherwise wet fall and potentially soggy seeding season.

“But I have to tell you, I am not as convinced as some that it will be here in time for seeding,” Lerner said.

More snow is likely on the way for producers with crop in the field along the eastern Rockies, but little precipitation will fall for the rest of Alberta and Saskatchewan be-tween now and the end of the winter. Southern Manitoba might receive some more, adding insult to injury.

Warm conditions have mopped up much of the snow in many parts of the Prairies, but southeastern Saskatchewan and Manitoba finished the fall wet, and five to 12 centimetres of moisture remain in the heavy snow pack that lies across that region.

“It’s not going to turn out great,” Lerner said.

“There will likely be some flooding and could result in some delays, depending on how long the melt takes.”

Environment Canada doesn’t produce a snow cover map for Western Canada until late in the winter, but Lerner said Manitoba has plenty of it.

Most of the Prairies have seen 40 to 60 percent of normal snowfall this year, and the Peace River region has been record dry, which should help get the stranded crop harvested in time for near normal seeding.

A very neutral El Nino–Southern Oscillation and a disintegrating La Nina will leave weather patterns stable and fairly quiet leading into the growing season.

The meteorologist puts a great deal of stock in the 18-year weather cycles, at least when it comes to projecting what the coming year might deliver, and 1981 appears to have the most in common with 2017.

Weather patterns from 1999 are similar to today, but that year is discounted because it had a strong La Nina.

As well, 1963 has similarities, but the growing season would not have warmer conditions and all the associated energy and resulting moisture with which to contend.

“The good news is all the violent weather is happening to the south of you, and that is good for you,” he said.

The seeding season should be reasonably dry, but regular rain is likely across most of the Prairies as the summer progresses.

“You want to get that planting out of the way early if you can,” he said.

Should the El Nino become a stronger influence, it will mean drier and warmer conditions in the growing season, “which most of you are looking forward to,” said Lerner.

The years 1963 and 1981 were in the middle of the driest and wettest periods on the Prairies, while1999 was eighth wettest because of the strong La Nina.

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