Precipitation totals have been below normal consistently this winter across the Prairies, leaving most areas with less snow on the ground than we might normally see at this time of year. Concern may begin to mount during the coming weeks with a dry start to spring in the forecast.
Precipitation totals which have been nearly all snow during the past few months are lacking across the Canadian Prairies but the importance of below-normal winter precipitation is not that important for summer crops. Many times snow melts down during the spring and runs off into the rivers and streams rather than soaking into the ground because of frozen ground.
It seems a little odd that flooding rivers and streams during April or May occur right next to fields that may be dry once the frost is gone from the ground. Of more importance is how much precipitation falls once we get to the point where the ground is thawing or thawed and how much warm, dry weather there is. Adequate soil moisture is needed for spring crops to germinate and high-enough soil temperatures are also important.
While forecasts extending out to a full season ahead of time are not gospel, we see evidence that spring may at least start out on the dry side of normal as temperatures rise and snow begins to melt across the region. We only have to go back to last year when it looked like the Prairies would have a dry spring, and then the rains came ending dry concerns. In fact, some areas saw too much moisture during some of the key germination and growing periods.
For those that are tired of the very cold weather that has covered Western Canada this winter, it does seem that the weather pattern is starting to favor a more moderate temperature pattern as arctic air retreats to far northern Canada. Despite the change in the temperature regime, we don't see much of a change for precipitation prospects as we move into March.
Storm systems appear that they will continue to be moisture-starved as they push inland across southwest Canada and cross over the mountains onto the Prairies. The proper pattern to advect moisture into the Prairie cropland just seems to continue to evade us. Hopefully in a month or two this will change.
Doug Webster can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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