Ag Weather Forum

Upper-Level Pattern Continues to Favor Systems for Canadian Prairies

John Baranick
By  John Baranick , DTN Meteorologist
The upper-level pattern for the next three weeks keeps some semblance of a trough (circled), or active weather pattern across the Canadian Prairies through mid-July, such as this upper-level anomaly chart from the American CFS model for the week of July 5-12. (Tropical Tidbits graphic)

It's getting hard to write about the Canadian Prairies without mentioning some form of the word "active". The upper-level pattern has favored system after system, disturbance after disturbance, trough after trough moving through the region for the last two months or longer. That is an overly active pattern for seemingly a long time.

Usually at some point in the season, especially as we get into summer, the pattern stagnates and we see a hot and dry upper-level ridge at some point. While they've passed through briefly at times, it has usually lasted just a day or two, and usually between systems. The absence of the ridge has allowed for above-normal rainfall for most of the region during the last few months, eliminated large areas of drought, and stocked soils with plenty of moisture, an oddity over the last few years.

There have been negatives to the pattern though with overly wet soils, areas of flooding, especially in Manitoba, low temperatures that have produced frosts, and even snow! The highlands west of Calgary recorded coatings to several centimeters of snowfall earlier this week. While the occurrence of frost and snowfall is not unheard of for June, it is rare. The cooler and wetter look has been in large part based on a consistent upper-air pattern across the North Atlantic and North America.

The main ridge has set up over the eastern United States and Canada. Meanwhile, a ridge has been very frequent across the northern Pacific Ocean, near the Aleutian Islands, over the last several weeks as well. In between, you can usually find a trough and the occurrence of storm systems entering and passing through the region, sometimes balling up in the cooler air. That has certainly been the case for a while now for the Canadian Prairies. And this pattern doesn't look like it will be changing much.

The eastern ridge gets squashed temporarily next week, but it reforms over the western U.S. in the middle of next week, then shifts back to eastern North America late next week and especially over the weekend. At the same time, the ridge in the North Pacific has taken somewhat of a break, but looks to return to a base state by the end of the month.

Either way it doesn't seem to matter as system after system enters Western Canada and continues right on through. The continued pulsing of storm systems will lead to widespread rain chances over the next several weeks, and variable temperatures. The pool of coolest air should favor Nunavut and Hudson Bay, but could make an appearance here or there after storms pass through.

This active pattern looks to continue for a while. Long-range climate models show this pattern staying somewhat frequent in the Canadian Prairies through the second week of July. That will allow crops to stay stocked with soil moisture ahead of a potential warmup for the second half of July, a critical period for crop growth that should coincide with reproduction for many of them. These forecasts are questionable though, as models may not have the best grasp on the upper-level pattern this far out. But it does give lower risks of heat for the next several weeks.

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John Baranick can be reached at


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