May could be Ottawa's driest month in 75 years, climatologist says

·2 min read
People enjoy the warm weather at Westboro Beach in Ottawa during the recent Victoria Day weekend. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press - image credit)
People enjoy the warm weather at Westboro Beach in Ottawa during the recent Victoria Day weekend. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press - image credit)

After two weeks without significant rainfall and a lack of precipitation in the forecast, May 2021 could be one of the driest months on record in the Ottawa area.

David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, said 13 millimetres of precipitation rain has fallen in the Ottawa Valley region this month. That's 11 millimetres fewer than the 24 that fell in 1944 — the lowest recorded amount in the last 75 years.

"The last three weeks in particular, I've seen a thimbleful of moisture — one day with rain when we typically would have nine," said Phillips. "This could very well be the driest May on record in the Ottawa area."

Phillips said the dry May follows four months during which precipitation was lower than average, and it's a problem that's happening across the country.

"It's almost as if nature's forgotten how to precipitate over parts of Canada," said Phillips.

Farmer, conservationist concerned

The lack of rain in the forecast has some Ottawa-area farmers concerned about their crops, particularly with the long-term forecast predicting warm and mostly dry weather in the coming days

Bruce Hudson of Panmure Farms said his crops virtually jumped out of the ground after a recent burst of hot weather. He grows wheat, corn, soybean and vegetables in West Carleton.

"We need moisture to keep things going, and that kind of has us worried," said Hudson. "You've got a plant that is anxious to grow, and without rain it's certainly going to limit some of the potential."

Hudson said June is a make-or-break month when the health and size of his crop yields will be determined.

Brian Stratton of the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority said the early snow melt and meagre rainfall during early spring have created dry conditions across the Ottawa Valley.

The authority warned last month that water levels and flows across the Rideau Valley watershed were well below normal for the time of the year. Stratton said not much has changed since then.

"Normally we see these conditions in July," said Stratton. "We're seeing the low water earlier this year than we normally do."

Stratton warned a lack of rainfall could affect golf courses, farms and boating on reservoir lakes, and could lead it to ask residents to conserve water.

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