Drought persists on the Prairies, but there are signs of a change

Kevin MacKay
·2 min read
Drought persists on the Prairies, but there are signs of a change
Drought persists on the Prairies, but there are signs of a change

It’s fair to say the Prairies suffered a brutally cold and dry February, but that’s very thoroughly in the rear-view mirror, with the region basking in the sunshine and warmth that has marked the month of March so far.

However, there’s a downside: Prairie farmers need the winter snows as much as spring showers to help replenish the soil ahead of the growing season. But where has that needed precipitation been?

Over the past three months, the majority of the Prairie region has received less than half of its average precipitation, which is some very unwelcome news for the farming community.

One culprit has been persistent high pressure over the region, preventing Pacific moisture from crossing the northern Rockies to fuel clipper systems that might spread snow over the region. Coastal moisture from the U.S. northwest has also been redirected well southward from its normal path, detouring as far away as Arizona and New Mexico.

Prairie Drought
Prairie Drought

Image: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

This storm track leads to Texas and Colorado lows, which are less likely to drive moisture into the Canadian Prairies. Last week, high pressure helped deliver temperatures in the upper teens to the Alberta foothills, while, 1,500 km to the south, the Colorado foothills were all but buried in 50 cm of snow.

As we gradually move through the early days of spring over the next month, with Arctic air putting up its final fight against the warm southerly flow, there will finally be the chance for some moisture-laden systems in Manitoba. The western Prairies, however, will just have to hope for the weakening of the high pressure to continue, allowing some Pacific moisture into Alberta.

MONDAY: UPSLOPING SNOW PROVIDES A LITTLE BIT OF NEEDED MOISTURE

The first signs of the weakening will occur on Monday as a weak clipper will push Arctic air southward across Alberta, with an easterly flow, resulting in some upsloping snow for the southern Rockies. This will be welcomed moisture for the headwaters of the Bow and Saskatchewan rivers.

PRSnow
PRSnow

Calgary is on the edge of the snow and may see some flurries but most of the snow will be confined to the foothills and well north of Edmonton. 5-10 cm can be expected along the foothills, with pockets of 10-20 cm for extreme southern areas.

Snowfall warnings are in place for parts of the foothills, where the precipitation will begin in the afternoon then move south along the region into the evening. Snow will ease Tuesday morning.

Stay tuned to The Weather Network for the latest forecast updates.