Canada Markets

Western Prairies to Face Dry, Mild Winter

Cliff Jamieson
By  Cliff Jamieson , Canadian Grains Analyst
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With growing calls for a warm and dry winter across the prairies, here's a look at current moisture conditions in the west. As of Oct. 19, Saskatchewan's cropland topsoil moisture has stabilized at 94% adequate (or better), while as of Oct. 13, Alberta's sub-surface soil moisture has stabilized at 51%. (DTN graphic by Nick Scalise)

In Thursday's Ag Weather Forum, DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Doug Webster discusses the ongoing impact of the current El Nino event with a forecast of a warm November ahead for the western prairies. While there may be short periods of cold weather, November temperatures are expected to be 2 degrees Celsius above normal and 3 digress above normal in the eastern prairies.

AccuWeather reports that dry and mild conditions will "dominate" over the winter, with winter temperatures averaging 3 degrees C above normal in cities such as Calgary, Edmonton and Regina. Major snowfall events are suggested to be "few and far between."

Meanwhile, the Western states of the United States remain gripped in drought conditions. Thursday's U.S. Drought Monitor shows 77.09% of the 11 Western states facing some degree of drought, up from 74.69% last week, 74.51% three months ago and 65.24% at the start of the year. The worst situation is seen in California, with the Oct. 20 data suggesting 25.08% in an extreme drought while 46% is facing exceptional drought. Data for the state has stabilized in recent months, although does show deterioration since the start of the year.

Along Canada's western borders, 100% of Washington state is facing drought, with the western third of the state in a severe drought (22.95% of the state) and the eastern two-thirds of the state facing extreme drought (67.96%). This situation has intensified in the past three months.

Idaho's data shows 91.49% of the state facing some degree of drought conditions, with the worst areas of the north and western border facing extreme drought, an area representing 28.49% of the state.

As well, a total of 54.88% of Montana is facing some degree of drought, with the worst area being the northwest corner with 16.92% of the state facing extreme drought, while the state's drought situation has improved in the past three months.

The accompanying chart shows both the Alberta and Saskatchewan soil moisture conditions as reported over time in their respective weekly crop reports. The province of Alberta reports subsoil moisture content, while Saskatchewan Agriculture reports topsoil moisture. The chart not only indicates current conditions as compared to earlier in the growing season, but also highlights the turnaround in conditions this summer with late-summer rains.

Ahead of what could be a dry winter, topsoil moisture in Saskatchewan is rated at 94% adequate or better (88% adequate, 6% surplus), after reaching a low of 32% in the week ending June 29 and largely stabilizing over the past seven weeks. This is equal to the final reported value in 2014, while the average of final reported values over the past five years is 69% adequate or better.

Subsoil moisture reported in Alberta's last crop report as of Oct. 13 is reported at 51.1% good to excellent, after having reached a low of 21% good to excellent in the week ending July 7. This compares to the 59% reported in October of 2014 and the three year average of the last crop report at 59.5%.

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