Ag Weather Forum

Western Dryness For the Prairies

Doug Webster
By  Doug Webster , DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist
The percentage of precipitation so far during April indicates the heaviest amounts have been in Manitoba, while a large area of Alberta crop areas, and over the border into west central Saskatchewan, have seen less than 40% of average. (Chart courtesy of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)

The summer-like weather and record high temperatures of the past several days is about to become history across Western Canada. A blocking pattern developing across Greenland and Eastern Canada send a fresh supply of polar air southward from northern Canada to let us know it's still only the middle of April.

With fieldwork operations ramping up across the region to prepare for seeding, soil moisture conditions are becoming more of a concern.

A weekend low pressure area brought heavy precipitation to far southern portions of the region, as well as most of southern Manitoba where rain and melted snow totals ranged from 20 to 50 millimeters. This was generally good news for most of these areas to help bolster soil moisture for seeding. A few areas, especially across southern Manitoba, might even be a little too wet, but drier weather during the coming week should remedy that situation.

Farther west, across most of Alberta and west-central Saskatchewan, the weekend weather system was pretty much a miss. With the early departure of snow cover and very mild weather of the past week, soil moisture levels continue to decrease. These areas are not in the greatest shape in terms of soil moisture as seeding time grows closer.

A chart from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada shows the percentage of precipitation so far during April. The large red blob across the west depicts areas with less than 40% of the average precipitation for April so far while the blue areas of the far south and across Manitoba outline the areas that received copious amounts of precipitation this past weekend.

The precipitation prospects are not that good for the drying west during the next weekly period. Only a few light-to-moderate showers are forecast during this weekend with drier conditions returning again next week. The good news is that these showers are expected across the driest areas. Eastern areas are not expected to see much precipitation at all during the next week which is mostly a good thing at this point to allow soils to dry a bit to allow for fieldwork to take place.

The overall weather pattern is shifting into one with a sizable trough across the western U.S. during the next several days to a week but it appears that this trough will be too far south to supply any moisture to the western Prairies. Some rains may skirt the U.S./Canadian border areas during the weekend, but at this time no large scale rainfall is expected.

There remains time for some rain or late-season snow to help bolster soil moisture for the dry western areas before seeding gets going. The longer-range outlooks for May do not indicate a lot of precipitation across the Prairies and in fact should be somewhat below-normal amounts. It only takes one system like we saw during the past weekend to lead to a good rain or snow to bring soil moisture levels back into line. At the moment, such a wet weather maker appears to be elusive.

Doug Webster can be reached at



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