Weather patterns have been in a state of change during the past week or two and some of the cold conditions and snow we had thought would cover many areas of the Prairies during the past week have occurred farther to the east. The reason is tied to the shift in the location of the cold upper air trough from central to eastern Canada.
While there are some lower temperatures and a little snow for parts of central Saskatchewan and Manitoba at this time, we are also seeing record high temperatures for some locations across Alberta. The weather pattern seems to have a memory and has shifted back into the one we've seen so often during the winter.
As we enter April, we begin to focus on the beginning of fieldwork and how much soil moisture may be available when seeding starts in several weeks. Snow cover has already melted across central and southern Alberta, southern Saskatchewan and southernmost Manitoba and northern areas of these provinces have less snow cover than normal for this time of year.
A chart from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada shows the percent of precipitation for the past five months across the main crop areas of the Prairies. Plenty of yellow shows up, indicating below-normal amounts of snow and rain have fallen since Nov. 1, 2015. Far southeast Manitoba and south-central Saskatchewan have seen more normal totals for this period.
Taking into account the forecast for April of less-than-average precipitation for many of the key crop areas of Western Canada and the drier-than-normal precipitation totals of the winter we would have to think that dryness could become a concern for at least part of the Prairies for spring seeding.
The most prone areas could be closer to the U.S./Canadian border and across Alberta where some dryness is already established and snow cover already gone. The April precipitation forecast hints that these may also be the driest areas of the Prairies with a little more rain/snow possible from central Saskatchewan to southeast Manitoba.
Many of the computer products continue to favor the idea of a ridge across Western Canada which during the spring tends to promote dry, mild conditions as clipper low pressure areas cross mostly to the north of the main crop areas. There is potential of some rain/snow for many areas early next week, but on the whole the weather pattern is not one that should produce lots of precipitation during the next few weeks.
Temperatures during March have averaged 3 to 5 degrees Celsius above normal for most of Western Canada and we see more mild weather in our future. Mild temperatures, lack of snow cover, and an overall dry weather pattern could be a recipe for low soil moisture conditions once we get to the main seeding season in May.
Doug Webster can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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