Ag Weather Forum

Prairies Stay Hot, Dry

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , Ag Meteorologist Emeritus
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Much of the Canadian Prairies have precipitation deficits since April 1 of 75 to 100 millimeters (5 to 8 inches). (AAFC graphic)

Another week of dryness covered the Canadian Prairies and the pattern remains in place through the next seven to 10 days. Here's how DTN Canada Grains Analyst Cliff Jamieson describes the situation from his location in Alberta:

"The weather story over the past week was the extreme heat that started in Alberta and moved eastward over the August 11-12 weekend. A number of record highs for the day and even all-time highs were reached across the Prairies, with one example showing Environment Canada data pointing to a 42.3 C or 108 F high on Saturday, Aug. 11, in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. While temperatures have moderated since, forecasts for Aug. 17 are once again showing points of central and southern Saskatchewan to reach 35 C (95 F). The seven-day forecast shows the western Prairies missing any significant accumulations while a heavy blanket of smoke from British Columbia wildfires covers the Prairies, which some say may reach as far east as Ontario.

"This recent event resulted in a significant deterioration in soil moisture across the Prairies as well as the northern U.S. states. As of Aug. 13, Saskatchewan Agriculture rated the province's cropland topsoil moisture at 69% poor to very poor, the poorest rating seen this crop year while comparable to the 70% poor to very poor rating reached as of July 31 2017, the poorest rating seen last summer.

"As a result, crops have matured rapidly, with Saskatchewan's government estimating the province's harvest at 5% complete as of Aug. 13, ahead of the five-year average of 3%. Early indications would suggest below-average yields, although the most progress is seen in southern regions that were hardest hit with drought this summer. Yields will show improvement as the harvest moves north, while quality to date is rated as good. Crops situated largely in the southern regions, such as durum and chickpeas, may lead to some of the most disappointing results."

The primary weather-maker, of course, is still upper-atmosphere high pressure, also termed a ridge, over western North America. That high was centered over the British Columbia coast, but has for the time being relocated farther east.

"The ridging is more over the Rockies at this time," said DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Joel Burgio. "It is occasionally extending northward into the Prairies, which leads to the heat. In general, the upper-air flow is west-to-east, with little available moisture for any weak troughs moving through this flow."

A few shower and thunderstorm occurrences are indicated over the next week, but actual precipitation expectations are minimal. Our DTN forecast table suggests a total of only 8 mm (.33 inches) for Lethbridge, Alberta; 3.5 mm (.14 inches) for Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan; and only 3.3 mm (.13 inches) for Brandon, Manitoba.

Bryce Anderson can be reached at

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