Ag Weather Forum

Prairies Rain Has Varied Impact

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist
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Growing-season rainfall has been close to double the average over much of the southern half of the Prairies. (AAFC graphic)

The 2016 crop season has been an active one across the Canadian Prairies -- and that means, to a large extent, a wet season. Precipitation from April 1 through July 31 has accumulated to the range of 115% to 150% of normal in most areas, and to the 150% to 200% of normal amounts in much of the southern half of the region. The southwestern third of Saskatchewan is the largest sector with this kind of moisture.

The impact has been mixed, as one might guess, with this amount of rain. This week's Saskatchewan Crop Report notes that crop progress in terms of beginning winter harvest activity is about a week behind last year, but is ahead of the five-year average. Hay crop activity is slightly behind average, with quality well above a year ago.

Heaviest accumulations of moisture are reported along the Alberta/Saskatchewan border of up to 2 inches over the previous week, while more reports of extreme weather including hail and tornados are indicated. Heavy rains have also hot this area since August 1. The highest cumulative rainfall reported for a single location is seen in southwest Saskatchewan at 18 inches since April 1. Despite the heavy rains in the province, progress on the hay crop is only slightly behind the five-year average and the quality is rated as 75% good to excellent, well above the 56% reported as of August 3 2015. And soil moisture rates 12% surplus -- so there's the beneficial side -- certainly no drought problem.

On the other hand, severe storms in portions of the region have hit some farms very hard, notably in Alberta. A recent estimate puts Alberta's farmers on track to break the record for crop insurance claims that was set four years ago, in 2012 due to severe hail storms. Hail and high winds have also caused some damage in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

The weekend looks drier with mild temperatures, which should benefit crop progress. However, starting by mid-next week, a new round of rain with stormy conditions is indicated for much of the region. So, the active scenario that we've seen in the Prairies this year will have another episode.


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Bryce Anderson
8/5/2016 | 9:27 AM CDT
David Phillips of Environment Canada provides some additional details. In Alberta this year, the number of dry days during July was far below normal. Both Edmonton and Calgary had only 8 dry days all month. Precipitation varied widely. Edmonton logged 106 mm (4 inches), about 10 percent above normal--but Calgary's July precip totals was 206 mm (8 inches), almost 3 times normal. In addition, Fort McMurray--where the big wildfires were last Spring--had its 2nd wettest day on record Saturday, July 30 with 88 mm rain (3.5 inches). Fort McMurray's records go back about 75 years. And finally--Saskatchewan has recorded 11 tornadoes this season. Last year--just 2 tornadoes were recorded.