The dry conditions that prevailed through the latter half of 2011 may continue on through 2012, says Manitoba Agriculture weather specialist Mike Wroblewski.
Speaking at the 27th annual St. Jean Farm Days here last week, Wroblewski said the stage was set for 2011 in 2010, which showed higher-than-normal precipitation.
“But once the fall came, wham. So much precipitation happened in 2010 in the Red River Valley that really soaked a lot of things. And then right in the start of November, we got freezing conditions and everything just stuck.”
Wroblewski said spring rain stayed above normal until the end of July, but after that there was only about an inch until the middle of September, which came too late for some crops.
The dryness has continued, with only 40 per cent of normal precipitation since November.
Wroblewski attributed the trend to la Nia, the appearance of cooler-than-normal waters in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean.
“The deviation of the sea surface temperature along the western coast of North and South America of just 1 throws the circulation right off.”
La Nia has caused the jet stream to swoop down over the mid continent and then come back up. That’s put southern Manitoba on the transition line between warm and cold air, which Wroblewski said is a cause for concern.
“The closer the jet stream is to us, the more we’re straddling warm and cold and that is where all the weather is,” he said. “What I don’t like about that is chaos.”
Wroblewski said he is keeping an eye on the trends throughout the winter and is forecasting less precipitation than normal. “We’ll keep an eye on the transition line. Get ready for the spring to see some of those big storms.”
He will also be keeping an eye on snow cover weigh gauges that are installed across Manitoba. The gauges have a bucket that is filled with glycol and antifreeze and are very accurate. There are currently 24 and more will be set up in 2012. Wroblewski said that so far there is weigh gauge coverage in the southwest and along the Assiniboine River.
Quiet burning season
Wroblewski also reported a trouble-free crop residue burning program last fall.
“In most years we’re pumping out 600-700 permits per season, this year we did less than 100.”
In 2011, the only smoke that came into Winnipeg from fires was from fires in northeastern Saskatchewan, and from the RM of Piney.
“This year we are scot free in terms of any of our producers burning illegally and blowing smoke into the city.”