Weather Outlook for the Prairies

Daniel Bezte has been surveying various forecasts available for years, and his conclusion on long-term outlooks…It’s like throwing darts at a dart board blindfolded.

But, taking the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the Canadian Farmers Almanac, adding in a touch of U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasting with some Environment Canada outlooks, he’s come up with an outlook for the Prairies – above average temperatures for Saskatchewan in April, near average in Manitoba, and both provinces will see above average temperatures in May.  Precipitation will be near average in Manitoba in April, but likely below average in the southern areas of the province in May and June and above average in more northern regions in May and June.  Saskatchewan will see average precipitation.

Bezte advises anyone, including farmers, to take the various almanac or very long-term outlooks with a grain of salt. “The Canadian Farmers Almanac claims to be right 80 percent of the time,” says Bezte. “That may be right for that one town somewhere on the Prairies that experienced what they called for. But that said, they are fun to look at and see what they are saying.”

“Of course, Mother Nature will likely do the exact opposite of all of my predictions,” says Bezte. “In 1934, we had a very similar winter to the one we’re just coming out of and what followed that was a dust-bowl summer across central and North America.”

Bezte has been very interested in the Western Ridge of high pressure that has been responsible for the drought in California, as well as record high temperatures in north and western America this winter. He sees that ridge pushing in to impact weather for the Prairies. “NOAA also has a drought outlook, which gets cut off right at our border, but they are showing an increase in drought area in Minnesota and Eastern North Dakota,” says Bezte. “If I take that drought outlook and extrapolate it, and with the resources I have available, I see that drought area expanding to include the southern and eastern areas of Manitoba.”

The current situation is that the runoff is pretty much done and there was little or no noticeable changes in river levels. “It’s already dry – the land is at a deficit for moisture, and we could easily slip into a drought, especially in central and eastern Manitoba,” says Bezte. “With no snow cover, open ground is absorbing heat versus radiating that heat back into the atmosphere. Lack of snow cover changes a lot of things and one of those is how quickly the ground warms up.”

When it comes to forecasting, Bezte says the U.S. NOAA is likely the best for longer range forecasts in season – four and five day outlooks. “It’s a matter of budgets and manpower,” says Bezte. “NOAA has considerably more forecasters spending a lot more time looking at models, analysing the data, tweaking it and writing forecasts. Environment Canada just doesn’t have near the resources. Their one- to two-day forecasts are good. After that, it’s just based on computer modeling.