April 2021 started off nice, with temperatures running well above average. Daytime highs were routinely in the 14 to 18 C range, making most of us believe the long- range forecast was going to be correct in its prediction for a warmer-than-average month. Then, on April 12, a storm system moved through, stalled out, reversed direction and brought cold weather and snow to a large portion of central and eastern Manitoba. After that storm, cold weather mostly dominated, though we had just enough quick shots of warm weather to keep our hopes up and allow us to get out and enjoy the month.
When all the numbers were added up, it was surprising just how uniform the weather was, not just across Manitoba, but right across the agricultural Prairies. Starting off in Alberta, all three regions reported below-average temperatures, with readings running from about 1.0 C below average in the Calgary region to about 2.5 C below average in the Peace River region. Precipitation was also below average, with all three of these regions reporting about 50 per cent of average water-equivalent precipitation.
In Saskatchewan, the colder-than-average temperatures continued, but values compared to average were a little warmer compared to Alberta. Regina reported a mean monthly temperature of about 3.5 C, which was 1.5 C below average; Saskatoon reported a mean monthly temperature of around 4.0 C, only 0.5 C below average. April was a very dry month across Saskatchewan, with both locations reporting less than five mm of precipitation or about 20 per cent of average.
Finally, across agricultural Manitoba, the pattern of colder-than-average temperatures continued, with all three regions reporting mean monthly temperatures that were within a few 10ths of 3.0 C. The warm spot compared to average was Dauphin, which came in about 0.5 C below average, with both Brandon and Winnipeg coming in about 1.0 C below average. Despite the mid-month snowstorm, precipitation still came in below aver- age. Both the Brandon and Dauphin regions reported about 15 mm of water-equivalent precipitation, or about 50 per cent of average. Meanwhile, Winnipeg reported a little over 20 mm — about 70 per cent of average.
Who called it?
Overall, it was a colder-and drier-than-average month and when we look back at the different long-range forecasts, it looks like the CanSIPS model did the best job. It got the below-average temperatures across western regions correct, along with the dry conditions across southern regions. Not a perfect forecast, but better than the others that were calling for above-to well-above-average temperatures.
Now, on to the long-range forecasts for May, June and into the early part of July. As usual, we will begin with the almanacs. The Old Farmer’s Almanac calls for a warm and dry May followed by a cool, wet June and then a slightly warmer-than-average but very dry July. From a growing perspective, that might not be too bad, as long as we don’t see too much rain in June. Next up is the Canadian Farmers’ Almanac. Reading its week-by-week account of the weather, it seems like May will see near-to slightly above-average temperatures and precipitation, with mentions of fair, pleasant, unsettled, stormy and then hot weather near the end of the month. June sounds like it will see near- to above-average temperatures as it mentions thunderstorms a lot during the month and you usually need fairly warm weather for thunderstorms. With all the mentions of thunderstorms, I would have to say precipitation in June will be above average. July sounds cool and wet as it mentions showery, unsettled, fair and cooler weather several times.
Now, on to the weather models. NOAA’s three-month outlook for May to July calls for above-average temperatures with near-average precipitation over the eastern Prairies and below average over western regions. Next up, the CFS model currently calls for slightly below-average temperatures in May, warming to near to slightly above average in June and above average in July. May is forecast to see above-average rainfall across all three Prairie provinces with progressively drier conditions moving in for June and July, but overall values coming in right around average. Moving on to the CanSIPS model, it calls for above-average temperatures across southern regions cooling to below average over northern regions in both May and June, followed by near-to slightly above-average temperatures across all regions in July. Precipitation is forecast to be near to slightly below average in all three months.
Finally, my take on all these forecasts: I feel we are at a weather crossroads right now. We have flipped into a cooler-than-average pattern similar to what we saw happen in February. The million-dollar question is, will this pattern continue, or will we see a switch back to warmer than average? I think we will continue to see cooler-than-average temperatures until at least the middle of May before warmer-than-average weather moves back in. This would result in near-average May temperatures followed by above average in June. July is anyone’s guess; I am going with above average.
Precipitation is always tougher than temperature. Usually, a cool May means a wet May, but I do not see any signs of wet weather moving in. So, I think both May and June will see near-to below-average rainfall, but it only takes one big thunder- storm to push a region to well above average. I just hope we see enough precipitation to start pulling us out of our current drought conditions.