Ag Weather Forum

Canadian Prairies Short-Range Rainfall Forecast

Joel Burgio
By  Joel Burgio , DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist
Many areas of the Canadian Prairies have seen less than 40% of normal rainfall since the beginning of April. (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada graphic)

Dryness and a recent turn to hot weather is of much concern across the Canadian Prairies region now that planting is near complete and especially since emergence has been slow to occur. The short-range forecast, Thursday-through-Saturday, shows showers and rain in the region. This rain is likely to help some areas significantly, but others may miss out. We take a look at this chance today.

The included graphic shows the current situation as it looked yesterday morning. Many areas have seen less than 40% of normal rainfall since the beginning of April. This allowed a rapid planting pace in the region, but it also contributed to poor germination and emergence of the early planted crops. The below-normal precipitation pattern was also in place for many areas during winter.

The current forecast, as I write this at mid-day Thursday, shows a couple of waves of rain or showers in the area today and Friday and in eastern areas even into Saturday. The heaviest rain chances will occur west and north of the primary track of the surface low and with a secondary low track and surface cold front that will trail behind the primary low.

It appears to me that the best chance for a drought-breaking rain will be in central Alberta. The area basically between Edmonton to Calgary and extending east-northeast into northwest Saskatchewan. This area is expected to see on average 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches with some heavier amounts possible and near general coverage. This is the area northwest of the track of the primary low.

The area from southeast Saskatchewan through Manitoba also has some chance to see significant rain later in this forecast period, associated with the secondary low and surface cold front. This may mean rainfall of about 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches as well but in these areas, including the risk for thunderstorms, I am not as confident on this outcome. There is still some differences between the models, even with a very short-range forecast for the area.

The region from southeast Alberta through southwest and central Saskatchewan may only see showers of 1/10 to 1/2 inch during this time. The activity is most likely during Thursday into Thursday night as the rain chances shift to the east and to the north of the area during Friday. Finally, the area north of Edmonton in Alberta through the Peace River region is also not expected to see much rain from this system. There will be a chance for showers, but not what I would call a good chance. Temperatures continue well-above normal ahead of this disturbance, but conditions should turn much cooler again behind it.

This system does represent the best chance for needed rains in the dry areas of the Canadian Prairies that we have seen this spring season. However, if the current forecast verifies as expected, we will see improving conditions in Alberta, northwest and extreme southeast Saskatchewan and in Manitoba but only marginal improvement elsewhere in Saskatchewan and southeast Alberta. There is enough uncertainty in this very short-range forecast to allow some hope that this rain will be more widespread than is currently indicated.

However, I would not want to put this chance very high at this point. The window of opportunity for needed rains to occur in the region appears to close after the secondary trough moves through Manitoba early Saturday. After that time, the next significant chance may be a week or more down the road.

Joel Burgio can be reached at



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