The Canadian Prairies are cold with either wet or snow-covered ground. This is especially true for the southern and eastern areas. Temperatures fell to hard freeze levels through the west and much of the central area this week, bringing an end to the growing season. Eastern areas had overnight lows dip into a frost and light freeze category early Thursday, with some additional cold weather expected Friday morning. It is likely harvest is either very slow or at a standstill. Some production has also likely been lost, along with declining crop quality.
The Prairies five-day forecast shows moderating temperatures through Monday. There is some chance for additional moderate precipitation, mainly in Manitoba area, Friday night into Saturday and then again Tuesday or next Wednesday. Warmer temperatures should allow for a slow melt of the snow in the southwest. Added rain chances in the east means these fields would be slow to dry out. In either case, harvest progress will be slow to improve, even with the warming trend.
The longer-range outlook, from Wednesday, Oct. 9, through Saturday, Oct. 12, shows what could be another significant cold weather outbreak. Thursday's U.S. model is significantly colder-looking than the European model. The U.S. model is showing temperatures averaging 10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit below normal across the region, while the European model shows readings averaging 6 to 10 degrees F below normal. The European model also shows readings 10 to 14 F below normal in southern Alberta and southwest Saskatchewan Wednesday, Oct. 9. This is a significant difference between the models, but in this case it may not make that much difference. The normal lows are already near or below freezing across the region, so it does not take much to get you into a hard freeze situation. I expect that any crops that might have survived this week's cold outbreak would see an end of growing season event next week.
Harvest progress might improve with time as the ground firms up with the colder temperatures in the region this week and then again next week, so long as the snow cover melts prior to when it turns colder again. The chance for significant snow with this new event appears to be more in eastern areas rather than in the west. However, rain or snow does not look to be as heavy as the past week's event. A big problem with this pattern is the variability in temperatures. So long as crops have reached maturity, then either consistently cold or significant warm and dry weather would favor harvest. However, when warm temperatures mix in with the pattern, this allows for muddy fields; then, additional snow or rain during the transition becomes problematic. Hopefully this type of pattern is not what we are looking at in the extended range, but it is something we need to keep an eye on.
Joel Burgio can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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