Prairie farmers may face wet summer

ST JEAN BAPTISTE, Man. — The drought in the western Prairies and the heat wave in the eastern Prairies shouldn’t continue in 2019’s growing season.

But while heat and moisture will return to more normal levels, the eastern Prairies will probably face a more severe thunderstorm season.

Those are key conclusions of meteorologist Scott Kehler of WeatherLogics, a weather analysis company.

“It’s going to probably be a warm summer (in eastern Manitoba), but probably not as warm as last year,” said Kehler, who spoke to farmers in Manitoba’s Red River Valley during St. Jean Farm Days Jan. 10.

“Even if we’re warmer than normal, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be a really hot year like last year.”

Manitoba faced a dry and hot summer, with the rain shutting off in July and not returning until the fall. That hurt many local soybean crops, which suffered with the lack of moisture, but cereal crops turned out well.

The situation on the western Prairies was much worse, with many crops damaged by severe drought stress, but Kehler said those areas should see relief from drought this year. Cooler than average temperatures with adequate rainfall should offer farmers much better crop growing conditions than they saw for the past two years.

As well, thunderstorms should be fewer than normal in the foothills, offering some relief from hail damage.

But on the eastern Prairies, the moderately warm and wetter-than-average conditions, which should give farmers good conditions, will probably be paired with a more volatile thunderstorm season, adding risk and variability to the mix.

For Manitoba, it will probably be more like 2015 and 2016, rather than like 2017 and 2018, in 2019.

The increased thunderstorms will come from the situation of the eastern Prairies being situated between hotter Eastern Canada and the cooler western Prairies. Living in a transition zone, as eastern Manitoba farmers will probably be, can bring unpredictable weather events.

The better moisture will be brought up from the south, as the jet stream moves north.

“We’re expecting that’s going to bring a lot more moisture to the Prairies this year,” said Kehler.

“We’re expecting significantly wetter weather across Saskatchewan this year.”

In general, farmers should be happier with the 2019 conditions than with the two most recent years, Kehler said.

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