Sizzling summer on the Prairies

After 51 years at Environment Canada, David Phillips has made hundreds of seasonal forecasts. In some cases the predictions were a best guess, other forecasts were more certain.

This year, he’s feeling confident it will be a warmer than usual summer in Canada and most forecasters are “singing from the same songsheet.”

American forecast models, Weather Network models and Environment Canada computer models all point to a warmer than normal summer for most of Canada.

Environment Canada released its official summer forecast June 1. The probability of warmer than usual temperatures in June, July and August, across Western Canada, is around 60 to 90 percent, with a hot summer more likely in the western half of the Prairies.

Phillips is bullish about the temperature forecast but precipitation is much harder to predict.

June is typically the wettest month on the Prairies, so it’s possible that June could be hot and wet. A wetter than normal June is needed in many parts of the Prairies, as most of the region is in a moisture deficit. A map on Drought Watch, an Agriculture Canada service, shows that Western Canada received 60 to 80 percent of normal precipitation from May 31, 2017 to May 31 this year.

Plus, it was excessively hot for much of June in Western Canada. Brandon, for example, recorded five days above 30 Celsius and the average daily high for the month was around 23 C – about five degrees warmer than normal.

“The problem is when you have it so warm, you need a lot more precipitation (to compensate),” Phillips said. “Even normal precipitation doesn’t cut it.”

Some forecasters are confident the arid conditions will persist.

AccuWeather is expecting hot and dry weather on the Prairies this summer.

“The ongoing drought over the southern Prairies is expected to worsen through the summer,” said Brett Anderson, AccuWeather Canada weather expert.

Much of Western Canada did receive rain in late May and early June, but it’s possible that the rest of the summer will look more like May, with temperatures in the low 30s and blue skies.

“The thing in weather, there’s a certain thing called persistence,” Phillips said. “We’ve set the trend…. What you see is what you’re going to get. Our models, the American models… are saying warmer than normal. That’s a big concern.”

Still, Phillips isn’t prepared to say the 2018 growing season will be a disappointment.

He’s holding out hope for a wet start to the growing season.

“I (won’t) say it’s over until we get through June.”

Freezing April vs. sizzling May

Environment Canada data from Brandon illustrates the extreme shift in temperatures this spring on the Prairies:

  • The average daily high temperature in April was 5.9 C
  • In May the avg. daily high was around 23 C. That’s a 17 degree shift in afternoon temperatures, almost like going from a polar to a tropical climate
  • The normal change in average daily high, from April to May, is 6.6 C

Source: Environment Canada

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