Ag Weather Forum

Prairies Get Desert Heat

Joel Burgio
By  Joel Burgio , DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist
Western Prairies temperatures reached above 34 Celsius (97 Fahrenheit) during the first week in August. Readings topping 38C (100F) are likely to finish out the week. (AAFC graphic)

Early August temperatures are likely to be the same in Estevan, Saskatchewan, as they are in Phoenix, Arizona; not because of a cold front in the southwestern U.S., but because of exhausting and all-time record heat in the Canadian Prairies. A powerful upper-atmosphere high-pressure ridge has parked over western North America for several weeks, and has brought tremendous heat and dryness to not only the Prairies, but the entire western U.S. as well.

I asked my colleague, DTN Canada Grains Analyst Cliff Jamieson, for his perspective on this heat. After all, Cliff is living with it along with everyone else involved in Prairies agriculture. His thoughts:

"Harvest has begun on the Canadian Prairies, with this week's Manitoba Crop Report reporting yields of winter wheat, oats, barley, spring wheat and dry peas at average levels as of August 7. The Saskatchewan government's crop report as of August 6 shows the harvest on track with the five-year average with 1% complete, with early yields suggested to range from average to well-below average. The province rates crops in fair condition overall, having rated most crops to range from fair to excellent in each of the past four weeks.

"Prairie conditions vary substantially from the north to the south, similar to the 2017 growing season. As an example, cumulative rainfall reported by Saskatchewan Agriculture between April 1 and August 6 ranges from a high of 398 millimeters (15.7 inches) at one location in the northwest to a low of 28.7 mm (1.1 inches) at one location in the southwest, while the southwest location has received little precipitation over the past two months while facing hot temperatures. Producers also point to variable rainfall across any given region that has led to varying crop potential.

"While temperatures cooled in the first week of August in 2017 from the hot July temperatures, the current week is expected to result in possible record temperatures for areas of southern Alberta and Saskatchewan while moving towards Manitoba. Daytime highs are forecast hotter by the day, with temperatures expected to reach a peak in southern Alberta on Friday, southern Saskatchewan on Saturday and Manitoba on Sunday. Current forecasts from varying sources are showing temperatures reaching highs across the south ranging from 38C to 41C (100.4 to 105.8F).

"'Crops are on life support,' stated one southern Prairie producer online, while northern producers reflect on the challenges of receiving anywhere from 4 inches to 10 inches of rain in a one-week period as some northern locations have faced this spring and summer. Concerns exist for late crops with this week's heat expected to bring crop development to an abrupt end. Reports of light weight grains are surfacing, while it is expected that canola seed in late crops will shrivel. Despite concerns, early harvested barley has weighed slightly on cash trade in southern Alberta while November canola has moved only modestly above its July high in this week's trade.

"The pattern does show signs of easing, with a strong cold front moving through the region during the coming weekend of August 10 to 13. Cooler conditions will be welcome, but there is not much rain to accompany the temperature change. Lethbridge, Alberta, for example, is only likely to receive eight-hundredths of an inch rainfall when the frontal pass occurs Sunday, August 12. So, while temperatures will be less stressful, the dryness is likely to still be an issue for Prairies crops and pastures."

Bryce Anderson can be reached at

Twitter @BAndersonDTN



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