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Cool, later-spring forecast for Prairies

More moisture is in the forecast too, but it needs to be timely to help crops

Western Canadian farmers can expect a cool, later-than-normal spring, according to a forecast from DTN Progressive Farmer and WeatherFarm.

While that means a later start to spring seeding and the risk of a late-spring frost, the silver lining is it will help conserve the limited moisture coming from a smaller-than-normal snowpack.

Although Western Canada is expected to gradually get wetter this spring, it’s not going to replenish the soil moisture used up by crops in 2017.

“My reading of the things is that the crop in the Prairies is indeed going to depend upon rainfall happening at the appropriate time,” Bryce Anderson, a meteorologist with DTN Progressive Farmer, told reporters with Glacier FarmMedia publications, including the Manitoba Co-operator, during a briefing Feb. 26 as part of a collaboration with Weatherfarm. “There’s not going to be a whole lot of buildup of subsoil moisture this year.”

WeatherFarm is also a Glacier FarmMedia brand.

La Niña, which typically brings cooler, drier winters to Western Canada, is fading, Jim Block, another DTN Progressive Farmer meteorologist said.

“That means for Western Canada we’re looking for below-normal temperatures,” he said. “It’s going to be cooler. We look for the dryness to continue. Dryness will gradually change. That’s going to go away in the western provinces and gradually become wetter. But it’s going to be cold. We are going to be seeing a late frost, especially in the first half of spring in March and April and towards the end of May and then we will finally see things start to warm up a little bit. We will start to see precipitation totals pick up in the Prairie provinces. But all in all the snow and frost will extend later.”

Some above-normal precipitation in March and April will be appreciated, especially on the southern Prairies, said Bruce Burnett, Glacier FarmMedia’s director of markets and weather.

“If we have this slow start to the (spring) season with the cooler-than-normal temperatures that should essentially help us in terms of conserving some moisture,” Burnett said. “More of it will stay in the soil rather than get into the river system.”

Block said Prairie farmers can expect frost until at least the middle of May. The transition from cool and dry, to wet and warm will be slow.

“As you get closer to the U.S. border it will be slower to get wet and I will be slower to warm up,” Block said.

No big storms as forecast for southern Manitoba over the next 10 days, he added, but that could change later in March, which often sees storms as weather patterns shift.

“We’ve got a very active jet stream right now,” Block said. “What we are looking at, at least in the near term, is a little more warmth moving back up to the north… and the Prairie provinces warming up here in the next few days. But the storm pattern remains really active. There’s still a large snowpack across the Midwestern United States, extending up into… especially western Ontario and that is going to keep the cold air in place and that creates this big temperature gradient which provides a lot of energy for these storms. So I would look to the East to being quite stormy and active and the West to remain in a cooler pattern.”

About the author


Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.


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