Drought a possibility: forecaster

Weather forecasters are at odds about what kind of summer to expect.

AccuWeather is warning farmers in central and northern Alberta that they should prepare for drought.

“We think it’s going to be a very warm summer,” said Canadian weather expert Brett Anderson.

It is also going to be a dry summer. June will have near normal precipitation, but July and August will turn dry as a high pressure system suppresses storm activity across the prairie region.

Anderson said it will be particularly hot and parched in a wide swath stretching from northwestern Alberta to southeastern Saskatchewan.

“Northern and central Alberta really sticks out like a sore thumb in terms of dryness,” he said.

He is not as concerned about the rest of the prairie region.

“I don’t think we’re going into a drought in Saskatchewan. I think we have enough moisture in the ground,” said Anderson.

Manitoba will receive thunderstorms from time to time throughout the summer months and is not expected to be as warm as the other prairie provinces.

“The odds of seeing any widespread drought in that (province) are probably 30 percent or less,” he said.

Drew Lerner, president of World Weather Inc., disagreed with the AccuWeather forecast.

“I do allow Alberta to dry down, but we have so much moisture in Alberta that once we get this crop planted the roots are going to go down with the moisture and it’s going to be a good production year,” he said.

Lerner believes there will be a drier pattern in the northwestern Prairies but plenty of moisture elsewhere.

“It still looks to me like there’s going to be a regular occurrence of rainfall,” he said.

He is forecasting a wetter bias in southeastern Alberta, through much of Saskatchewan and into west-central and northwestern Manitoba.

Lerner is calling for a warmer bias in the northwestern Prairies and near to below normal temperatures for the rest of the region.

The only way he can see the AccuWeather forecast unfolding is if a full-fledged El Nino developed, but he doesn’t believe that is in the cards.

Anderson said his forecast has nothing to do with El Nino forming. He doesn’t expect that to have any impact on weather patterns until fall or winter.

It is more about the disappearance of a blob of warm water in the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of North America. The blob sent moisture across Western Canada the last couple of years.

In its absence, a high pressure system will form over the prairie region.

“That acts like a big bubble,” said Anderson.

“Any fronts that come in from the north and west, they kind of move around that bubble and the dryness builds across the region.”

The good news is the bubble will reduce the threat of severe thunderstorms because there isn’t the wind energy aloft that is transferred down to the ground.

It also reduces the threat of hail because the persistent high pressure system results in warmer temperatures aloft and less likelihood of hail formation.

Lerner is more concerned about spring than summer. He said the soil is so saturated in central and northern Alberta that any small rain event will force farmers to the sidelines.

He worries that growers with unharvested crop will have a tough time getting this spring’s crop in the ground.

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