A late start to the seeding season is unfolding across the Canadian Prairies as spring weather remains limited. While snow cover is pretty much out of the picture and flooding potential is on the wane, temperatures continue in the same pattern we have observed since last November.
The nearly persistent cold continues to slow farm fieldwork and keeps soil temperatures low which will likely delay when full scale seeding can begin. During April, temperatures were again below normal across the region ranging from 1 to 3 degrees Celsius below normal across Alberta to as much as 3 to 5 degrees below normal across Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
The recent episodes of rain and snow along with cloudy weather have done us no favors, since we need more sun to help raise soil temperatures. The news is not good for the near future either, with another period of mostly cloudy, cool and damp weather likely into early next week. Some of the western upslope areas may again see some snow.
Why is the cold pattern unable to let go? There remains a strong blocking pattern across the Northern Hemisphere at this time and weakening of this pattern is only expected to be slow during the coming weeks. There continues to be an upper level high forecast for northwest and northern Canada which leads to cool surface high pressure across western and northwestern Canada and a southward displacement of the main polar jet stream.
For the Canadian Prairies these two factors combine to bring cool air southward from the north from the surface high while the now more active jet stream coming inland from the Pacific along the U.S./Canadian border supplies episodes of wet weather. We can only hope that the future turns out like last year when a pitiful weather pattern lasted well into May before breaking down into a very favorable pattern for summer crops.
Will our luck be good two years in a row? Only time will tell, but some of the model forecasts are not so optimistic. The May forecast continues to show more of what we have been dealt lately. A generally cool weather regime is forecast to continue for western Canada along with the seasonal increase in precipitation. The first look at June is not so good either with an early take being cool and sometimes damp for the Western Canadian crop zones.
Forecasts of an impending El Nino have run rampant during recent weeks and would most likely help our situation if one were to get going. The problem is that the high latitude blocking patterns we have endured during the past 14 months appear to be more dominant and have a greater impact on our weather than the tropical ocean oscillations. The key is likely held with how fast the polar blocking patterns last and when they weaken enough to allow for more warmth.
Doug Webster can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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