Snowy winter provides blast of hope in some parts of drought-stricken Prairies | CBC News


It simply retains coming. Extra snow.

For a lot of elements of the Canadian Prairies, it is extra of the white stuff than they’ve seen in years.

At Stan Jeeves’s cattle and grain farm close to Wolseley, Sask., 100 kilometres east of Regina, sturdy winds have blown the snow into enormous piles that engulf his hay bales. He is already had greater than 60 centimetres of snow this winter, in contrast with simply three centimetres at this level final winter, in accordance with Setting Canada information.

“I believe it is given me some optimism, for positive,” Jeeves mentioned. “We’re receiving pretty common snows, and so if that continues by means of the rising season into well timed rains, we needs to be a lot better off than we’ve got been prior to now two or three years.”

Stan Jeeves, 70, has a video chat with CBC Information on his cellphone whereas performing some chores on his grain and cattle farm east of Regina. He is been farming for 49 years and figures this winter’s snowfall is essentially the most he is seen in a couple of decade. (Bonnie Allen/CBC)

And whereas the snowfall he is seen this 12 months is near the historic common, the 70-year-old farmer has nearly forgotten what regular appears like.

Prairie farmers have faced dry conditions for years, with final 12 months breaking information for lack of rain and unrelenting warmth.

Drought outlook improves

The most recent drought monitor report from Agriculture and Agri-Meals Canada initiatives that a big space of the Prairies might be delisted as a drought zone by the top of February.

All elements of the Prairies, besides southern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan, have obtained near-normal to above-normal precipitation this winter season, in accordance with the report. Specifically, a large swath that stretches from north of Edmonton to Winnipeg has obtained excessive precipitation, barely easing drought situations.

The next two maps illustrate the present drought situations in Canada and what’s forecast to alter.

The primary map, with drought situations as of Jan. 31, reveals 61 per cent of the Prairie area nonetheless ranges from abnormally dry to distinctive drought. Nevertheless, it additionally reveals some enhancements. In Manitoba, for instance, the areas as soon as thought of to be in an excessive or distinctive drought have “considerably lowered as a consequence of very excessive precipitation within the final six months in addition to improved long-term situations.”

The most recent drought monitor report from Agriculture and Agri-Meals Canada reveals the extent and severity of drought situations throughout the nation as of Jan. 31. Excessive drought areas nonetheless exist in central Saskatchewan and elements of Manitoba, however the protection space has considerably lowered. (Agriculture and Agri-Meals Canada)

The second map, illustrating the drought outlook for the top of February, reveals a number of areas marked in inexperienced for “drought removing” and yellow for “drought improves.” The report suggests that the majority of Manitoba, japanese Saskatchewan and a northern strip of Saskatchewan and Alberta might be faraway from the drought zone.

Agriculture and Agri-Meals Canada’s newest drought outlook predicts situations will enhance in a number of elements of the Prairies by the top of February. The realm in darkish inexperienced signifies ‘drought removing’ and yellow signifies ‘drought improves.’ (Agriculture and Agri-Meals Canada)

“It isn’t as if that is cash within the financial institution, however this can be a signal that it is not going to be one other dangerous 12 months,” Setting Canada senior climatologist David Phillips mentioned. “The sensation is that perhaps Mom Nature has not forgotten how one can rain or snow on the Prairies.”

Sadly, a lot of southern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan have been short-changed up to now.

However Phillips mentioned there’s nonetheless hope.

“In areas that have not had as a lot [snow], say, in southern Alberta, in the event that they get snows now which might be rather more moist, extra water related to it, that might be extra beneficial for agriculture and ranching than snow that flies in December and January, which is drier,” he mentioned.

High quality of snow, not simply amount

Retired meteorologist Rob Paola is a volunteer climate observer who makes use of a ruler to measure the brand new snowfall and complete snowpack each morning from his official Setting Canada climate station in his yard in southwest Winnipeg.

To this point this winter, town has obtained greater than 156 centimetres of snow, with two extra months to go. The typical snowfall for a whole winter is about 127 cm, he mentioned.

However Paola additionally melts the snow to calculate how moist — or dry — it’s.

“Moist snow holds extra water, whereas fluffier snow holds much less water,” he mentioned. “Over the course of a winter, that may decide how a lot potential moisture is locked within the snowpack for the spring soften.”

Dry, powdery snow that builds up on the frozen floor within the coldest months of winter will not essentially flip into beneficial moisture when the bottom thaws within the spring. As compared, these huge, moist snowflakes that fall in April are extra doubtless to offer dry soil with an honest drink of water.

“As soon as the snow melts into the bottom, that ought to enhance soil moisture situations,” Paola mentioned.

Soften charge, spring snow and rains are important

Each Paola and Phillips say there are many unknowns within the subsequent eight to 10 weeks that can decide how a lot moisture soaks into the soil, fills dugouts or causes flooding. That features how shortly the bottom thaws and snow melts, how rather more snow falls and the quantity of rain that follows.

“As we get into March and April, we will get some important late-season storms. A few of our greatest snowstorms in Winnipeg have occurred in March and April,” Paola mentioned.

A lightweight dusting of snow on a farmer’s stubble discipline close to Gravelbourg, Sask., 200 kilometres southwest of Regina. Southwestern Saskatchewan and southern Alberta have not obtained as a lot precipitation as different elements of the Prairies this winter. (Matthew Howard/CBC)

Provincial businesses in Manitoba and Saskatchewan that launched preliminary runoff outlooks final week additionally cautioned that the spring soften charge will decide how a lot moisture is absorbed by the soil. In beneficial climate situations, the risk of flooding in Manitoba is low to average, nevertheless it jumps to excessive in unfavourable climate situations, in accordance with the province’s Hydrologic Forecast Centre.

In Saskatchewan, the Water Security Agency predicts that the spring runoff potential for the southern third of the province continues to be “beneath regular” or “properly beneath regular.”

At his farm east of Regina, Stan Jeeves says he is not relying on the present snow provide alone to reverse years of abnormally dry situations.

“I do not suppose it should do all that a lot for the sub-soil moisture. We’ll want some well timed rains, for positive, to make crop,” he mentioned. “We must always have sufficient moisture for germination. We would like some good rains in June, after which by means of July and early August to complete the crop off.”


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