Ag Weather Forum

Winter Storm to Target Prairies

More than a foot of snow (30 centimeters) could blanket the southern Canadian Prairies during the March 13-15 weekend. (DTN graphic)

The Canadian Prairies weather pattern has been progressive lately. Storm systems have moved across the region regularly and quickly. The quick movement to the storms has limited precipitation; in the past 30 days, the southern Prairies have generally had less than a half-inch or 15 millimeters of precipitation. Temperatures have been quite variable, rising well above normal ahead of the storms to falling below normal as they pass through. But those changes were quick for the most part, occurring every couple of days.

That quieter pattern looks to change. Two systems will merge over Western Canada on March 13, digging into the Pacific Northwest for March 14-15. In response, winds will carry moisture into the Rocky Mountains causing upslope flow. Upslope flow is notorious for creating heavy precipitation totals, and this system does not appear to be any different. Snowfall will start on March 13, but will pick up in intensity March 14. Showers should diminish as March 15 wears on. Maximum snowfall of 35-50 centimeters (14-20 inches) will be possible in some locations, with more widespread 20-30 cm (8-12 inches) appearing likely for southern Alberta, southwest Saskatchewan, and northwest Montana.

In addition to the snow, temperatures will fall well below normal for several days. The system will start to bring below normal temperatures March 13, intensifying over the weekend. Temperatures will gradually warm through next week, but stay below normal through at least March 21. At its peak, temperatures will average 16-22 degrees Celsius (30-40 degrees Fahrenheit) below normal March 14-16 in the same areas that receive the most snow. Temperatures may only top out in the minus 12 C to minus 15 C range (single digits above zero Fahrenheit) during that stretch. Temperatures will rebound some during the seven-day time frame, but the persistent trough in the west over the next couple of weeks should hold temperatures below normal.

Overall, livestock stress will be likely for an extended period and feed and hay should be stocked appropriately. Newborn calves are going to be more susceptible to the conditions. If there is any consolation, it comes in the fact that it is March and not January. A similar setup earlier in the year would be much worse.

Looking farther into spring, much of the moisture from the upcoming weekend storm system will have to melt and flow through the Missouri River basin, which is already running high due to excessive soil moisture. Interests downstream should keep a close eye on the snowmelt that will come with this snowpack later in the month into April.

John Baranick can be reached at



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