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Cool, Wet Weather In May?

Well, another month has come and gone and the weather was anything but perfect across the Prairies in April. As is usual at the start of a new month, we’ll take a little time to look back at April’s weather, then peer ahead to see what the next month or two might have in store for us.

I am one of the first people who will defend Environment Canada, because it has to do a lot of work with very little in the way of resources. Over the years, when I look back at the monthly weather, I have traditionally used data from Environment Canada for the major sites across the Prairies. This is because I knew the data was good and that I could trust it. Lately, however, it looks more and more like the cuts at Environment Canada are really taking a toll. One obvious example is the data available on the web for Dauphin. You’d think that after more than a year has gone by, they would fix the website or fix the problem with the recording instruments in Dauphin, but no. There are still no data summaries available for Dauphin and the data available is questionable at best, because they continually seem to be receiving huge amounts of precipitation each month while everyone else around them is not.

All right, so there’s a problem with Dauphin’s data, but it doesn’t stop there. Keeping in mind that this is Canada’s official website for weather information, I went to collect the monthly weather summaries for six major cities across the Prairies and found not one of the cities had a complete set of data for April. The majority of these were missing between two and five days’ worth of data and one site (Regina) was missing eight days. It makes it kind of tough to figure out the average monthly temperatures and precipitation totals for the month when upward of 25 per cent of the data points are missing! For the stations that were missing a few days I did check back to see if any rain or snow was reported on the missing days and came to the conclusion that the precipitation amounts I have will be fairly accurate. For the temperatures, I extrapolated data to fit into the missing days from the weather that was reported before and after the missing data and then recalculated the average temperatures for the month. While this will not be exact, it should come pretty close.

That said, here is how April’s weather shook out over the Prairies. Starting in the West, Alberta saw temperatures in April that were well below average. Both Edmonton and Calgary saw temperatures between 3 and 4 below their long-term averages. Saskatchewan didn’t fare much better, at least in Saskatoon. This station reported a mean monthly temperature for April that was nearly 2 below average. This trend continued into western Manitoba with the Brandon region also reporting an average temperature 2 below average. Things then warmed up over the eastern part of southern Manitoba. Thanks to some nice mild air during the last week of the month, Winnipeg saw a mean monthly temperature that actually came in right around average.

Precipitation across the Prairies in April followed a similar pattern to that of March. Over Alberta, southern regions were hit while several dumps of snow brought well above-average amounts of precipitation to that region. Farther north in Edmonton it was drier and that region came in a little bit below average. In Saskatchewan the region around Saskatoon was dry once again, with only a millimetre or two of precipitation recorded. Finally, in Manitoba, thanks to a late-month storm that brought heavy snows to western and central regions, along with steady rains to southern and eastern regions, it appears pretty much all areas had above-average amounts of precipitation. Western Manitoba can lay claim to being the wettest spot across the Prairies in April 2011, with a large portion of this area seeing 200 per cent of what it would normally.

So, for our region, April can be summed up as cold and wet over western regions and average and wet for eastern regions. Looking back at the forecasts for April, I think Environment Canada called it best, as it perfectly predicted the temperatures and had called for near-to above-average amounts of precipitation.

HERE’S HOPING

The big question is whether we’ll dry out enough to get planting or will this end up being a really tough spring? According to theOld Farmer’s Almanac,May will see near-average temperatures with near-to slightly below-average amounts of precipitation. TheCanadian Farmers’ Almanaccalls for near-average temperatures to start, with a warm end to the month. Precipitation looks like it will be near to above average as it mentions unsettled conditions several times. Environment Canada is forecasting the cool and wet conditions to continue.

Finally, here at theCo-operator,I have to admit I am leaning toward Environment Canada’s long-range forecasts. The medium-range models don’t show any big warm-ups over the next two weeks and the pattern continues to be active, with plenty of storm systems around. All in all, not the best May outlook; let’s hope theOld Farmer’s Almanacis the one that got it right.

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WesternManitobacanlayclaimtobeing thewettestspotacrossthePrairiesin April,withalargeportionseeing200 percentofwhatitwouldnormally.

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