While much can still change, parts of Manitoba may be en route to a drier spring and summer.
Speaking to producers during CropConnect in Winnipeg, Drew Lerner of World Weather Inc. said “what we’re going to be looking at this year is probably a little bit higher potential for a drier bias.”
After years of wet and wetter conditions, the meteorologist said signs are pointing to a change this year, partly due to a very weak El Niño.
However, the bigger factor may be that last fall saw less in the way of precipitation and this winter’s snowpack, at least in most regions of Manitoba, is not a heavy one.
“If we’re going to plant a crop, we want to make sure we pay attention to the fact that we have a limited amount of topsoil moisture to begin with and a weather pattern that may not be promoting a lot of precipitation,” said Lerner. “And that could be a really, really good thing for a lot of folks in the southeastern part of the Prairies, where it’s been so awfully wet for so many years… for many of us I think it will be a very good year.”
Earlier weather outlooks had predicted the possibility of a “Palmer” drought this summer, a period of dryness intense enough to register on the Palmer drought severity index used by the U.S. government. However, that now seems unlikely, he said.
While it will be drier overall, Lerner added that high-pressure ridges won’t be able to sustain themselves, leading to periodic rain and even some storms.
“If you take a high-pressure ridge, like the one that’s supposed to show up this summer, and you put it over a wet-biased area, it’s not going to be able to stay in place,” he said, noting that existing moisture will evaporate once the system builds, thereby destabilizing that very high-pressure system.
Manitoba’s first flood outlook of the year also reflected the possibility that 2015 will be drier than recent springs.
“This first outlook estimates the potential for overland flooding is normal to above normal in the western areas of the province and normal to below normal in the rest of the province,” said a provincial official, adding that could change depending on weather conditions between now and the spring melt.
A thinner snowpack doesn’t necessarily mean less water content either, the province said in a release noting that some areas still have above-normal moisture. What the lighter snowpack does mean is thicker ice on rivers and lakes, as well as deeper ground frost in some areas.
A more detailed flood forecast will be issued by the province at the end of the month.
But Lerner stressed that all it can take to change the course of a season, is one big storm or heavy deluge, noting that he also predicted a drier bias last year.
“By the time I got to March, I’d changed my mind,” he said. “Still a meteorologist, still worthless… I come here as entertainment.”