Summer forecasts all over the map

Three major weather forecasters have three different outlooks for the Canadian prairie summer, a sign that there is low confidence with this year’s forecast, says one of the prognosticators.

“That’s really what most people need to know is, hey, none of these guys know what they’re doing,” Drew Lerner, president of World Weather Inc., said with a laugh.

“So good luck to you. Have a good summer.”

AccuWeather said there are growing concerns about a summer drought in the western half of the prairie region.

It is calling for hot weather and lower-than-normal rainfall in southern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan.

“Based on that forecast and based on current conditions, it certainly concerns me that we may see a growing area of moderate to severe drought across southeast Alberta into southwest Saskatchewan this summer,” said meteorologist Brett Anderson.

There are already portions of the Prairies experiencing drought.

“The drought could rapidly expand once we get into July across those western areas,” he said.

The eastern Prairies will likely see normal temperatures and rainfall in eastern Saskatchewan and southern Manitoba and higher than usual precipitation north of Winnipeg and in eastern Manitoba, which will keep a lid on the heat.

The AccuWeather forecast is largely based on looking back at similar spring patterns and seeing what happened during the summer months those years.

That analysis revealed there is often a ridge of high pressure that sets up over British Columbia resulting in hot conditions in the western Prairies.

“Our confidence in the western Prairies is certainly higher than it is in the eastern Prairies,” said Anderson.

The ridge over B.C. will cause a dip in the jet stream further east, resulting in increased shower and thunderstorm activity in eastern and northern Manitoba.

Terry Lang, meteorologist with Environment Canada, said this year’s summer forecast is even more of a coin toss than usual.

Forecasters typically look to the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) to help determine summer weather patterns.

But ENSO is in a neutral phase known as La Nada, so it offers no guidance.

“That makes it much harder to forecast into the longer range because you don’t really have anything to kind of hang your hat on,” she said.

“We just don’t have a strong signal across the Prairies.”

Environment Canada’s best guess is that conditions will be wetter and colder than normal in central and northern Alberta and in Saskatchewan’s northern grain belt in June. It will be near normal in the remainder of the Prairies.

July and August should see average temperatures and precipitation right across the region.

Lerner is forecasting a wetter bias across most of the Prairies in June, with the exception of the Peace region of Alberta.

Temperatures will be cooler than normal in the west, especially in southwestern Alberta. The central and eastern Prairies will be near to above normal.

July rainfall will be near to above normal in southeastern Alberta, southwestern and south-central Saskatchewan and northeastern Saskatchewan. It will be below average in western and northern Alberta and eastern Manitoba.

Lerner anticipates a warmer than normal July with the exception of northern Alberta and northeastern Manitoba. The hottest regions will be southern Saskatchewan, southwestern Manitoba and southeastern Alberta.

Temperatures are expected to be normal to above normal right across the Prairies in August. The same goes for rainfall, except for central and northwestern Alberta, where it will be near to below normal.

Lerner has reservations that his summer outlook might be too wet but he isn’t forecasting drought like AccuWeather.

If the early June rains don’t materialize there could be some dryness issues in eastern Saskatchewan and west-central Manitoba but nothing overly concerning.

“I think it’s going to be a good production year,” he said.

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