After 51 years working for Environment Canada, David Phillips has seen a lot of weather. The veteran weatherman has witnessed ice storms, spring blizzards and summers that never happened.
Even with all that experience, Phillips is amazed by the conditions on the Prairies this spring, where the weather shifted from a freezing cold April to a blistering hot May, almost in an instant.
“For me, the real head-shaker is the contrast between April and May,” said Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada.
“When you look at the average maximum temperature in April (in Brandon, Man.) it was 5.9 degrees. Now we’re talking about May at 22.9.”
The severe change in temperatures, month to month, was similar in Regina. The average daily high in April was 6.1 Celsius. In May, as of May 29, it was 23.3.
“I dare say, I build my reputation on that fact that we’ve never seen a switch around like that,” Phillips said.
“Walk around in the afternoons in April… and compare it to May and it’s a 17 degree difference. That is like polar and tropical. The normal difference (April to May) would be 6.6 C.”
As an example of how warm it’s been, Brandon recorded five days of temperatures above 30 C in May. That’s comparable to the number of plus 30 days in June or July.
For most, hot spring afternoons are welcome but temperatures in the high 20s are also concerning. Soils in many parts of Western Canada are dry and warm afternoons are making the situation worse.
“These (hot) afternoon temperatures… they’re sucking every bead of moisture that exists,” Phillips said.
“The problem is, when you have it so warm you need a lot more precipitation.”
The billion dollar question, for prairie farmers, is will the sizzling temperatures in May persist into June and July?
Unfortunately, American forecast models, Weather Network models and Environment Canada computer models all point to a warmer than normal summer for Western Canada.
“(Everyone) is singing from the same song sheet,” Phillips said.
That doesn’t mean there will be a drought, as it could be hot and wet in June and July.
The amount of rainfall in June will likely tell the story of the 2018 growing season, because it’s normally the wettest month of the year on the Prairies, Phillips added.
Environment Canada will release all the details of its summer forecast June 1.