April brought upwards of 100 millimeters of rain to parts of Manitoba with a large part of Alberta begging for even a fraction of that moisture, as Saskatchewan is stuck in the middle with a grab-bag of weather ranging from average moisture, too much or not enough. One thing is for certain, it doesn’t matter where you are in the prairies, all eyes are on what weather is on the horizon for the rest of spring.
Scott Kehler, chief scientist and co-founder of Weatherlogics, says Manitoba is set to see some warmer days but unfortunately, less hope is available for those in the Palliser Triangle that encompasses parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
“The prairies right now couldn’t be more different. Out in Alberta and western Saskatchewan, right now it’s just a really dry pattern that has been in many ways, a carryover from last summer. Manitoba was in that pattern, it suddenly switched to spring. But it just continued out of the western prairies and right now there’s not a lot of good signs of major storms going through,” says Kehler.
The Palliser Triangle, which starts in the southeast corner of Alberta and stretches into the southwest portions of Saskatchewan, could see small amounts of precipitation in the coming weeks but only in the amount of likely 10-20 millimeters, Kehler says. However, central Alberta could see slightly more precipitation this coming weekend, which would be welcomed by many.
How does dusty Alberta snap out of this dry spell?
Kehler explains that we need to see a jet stream from the southwest push through the pacific northwest and upwards through the western prairies into Alberta. “So far this spring, we’ve seen that sort of pattern, but it’s too far east. So the jet stream has come in fairly far south across the western US developed a Colorado low in Colorado, as you can surmise, and then those systems track up to the central US plains into Manitoba, Ontario, really hoping to shift farther west.”
Northern Alberta, in the Grand Prairie region, along with northern and parts of central Saskatchewan are naturally wetter climates, and Kehler says the moisture levels there are more on par with what we would typically expect with drier conditions developing the farther south you go.
To quantify this, in the month of April, Grand Prairie saw anywhere from four to eight inches of moisture, where as in parts of northern Saskatchewan, that number drops to an average two to three inches throughout the region and those conditions persist to get drier as you move south.
Manitoba is a whole different ballgame as the month of April brought upwards of 100 millimeters of precipitation, in the form of heavy snow fall to spring-like rain.
Regardless, it has left the region with a surplus of moisture but Kehler says the warmer weather that is on it’s way will surely help dry things up, however, the valley areas will be playing the long game as warmth and wind won’t do the trick all on their own. “With this river flooding, the water simply has to make its way through the system and flow north into Lake Winnipeg to actually get it off the field,” he says.
Outside of precipitation and soil moisture levels, another topic that is timely for attention, is spring frost. Kehler shares with the data that he is seeing, with temperatures right around average for this time of year, it is likely we will see some frost throughout the month of may, more predominately in Alberta with the risk lessening the farther east you go.
“To me that [data] would suggest in Alberta, it is likely we’re going to get to more frost events later in the month. For Manitoba, probably, we’ll see some through mid month and then maybe the odd one later in the month, but not nothing too significant unless the pattern suddenly shifts,” Kehler explains, “Saskatchewan is kind of in the middle. So more the farther west you’re in Saskatchewan the higher the chance you may see a frost later in the month of May. But right now there’s nothing that really stands out as being highly unusual.”
Again, Kehler says those in valley type regions, could get the short-end of the stick when it comes to frost as those areas are more susceptible to frost due to their varied terrain.
Overall, it does look as though conditions are set to improve in Manitoba, Saskatchewan will likely stay in the same holding pattern with Albertans holding onto mild optimism for some precipitation in the coming weeks.