Moisture Situation Update as of March 15th 2022
Synopsis (map 1)
Since the last report (February 28, 2022) winter snows have fallen across many areas of the province bringing much needed moisture (map 1). Notably most of the dry areas south of the “Red Deer line” received 5 to 10 mm of precipitation and areas across the deep South along the US border, received 10 to 15 mm. While this moisture is welcome and useful, it is still not yet sufficient to replenish soil moisture reserves ahead of the spring green up.
In contrast, lands generally lying north of the “Wetaskiwin line” are under at least near normal snowpacks, bringing with the promise of much needed spring moisture. In areas with good snow cover, a slow and staggered spring melt period will be ideal.
Precipitation patterns, as of March 15, 2022 (map 2, map 3, map 4 and map 5)
During the last 30-days precipitation has been highly variable ranging from 10 to 15 mm along the eastern portions of the agricultural areas, and then up to at least 20 mm through several other widely scattered areas (map 2). These accumulations are considered to be least near normal across most of the province (map 3).
For the south-half of the province, this marks a welcome shift from the drier patterns that have persisted over the entire winter (map 4). However, February and March are typically dry months so this recent trend is not yet enough to reverse the large deficits accumulated over the past year or more (map 5).
Snow Pack Conditions as of March 15th, 2022 (map 6, map 7)
With the arrival of warmer weather in recent days, snowpacks are in rapid retreat leaving most lands snow free south of Olds (map 6). Note that this is considered normal for this time of year (map 7). For the most part, lands lying south of Wetaskiwin are in need of additional moisture ahead spring green up as snow packs (map 7) and over winter moisture (map 4) have been well below normal.
As one moves north of Wetaskiwin, snow packs improve rapidly with many areas north of the Yellowhead Highway estimated to have at least 80 mm of water contained in the snow packs. This should give these areas a reasonable start to cropping, especially if the melt period is relatively slow and moisture has time to soak into the fields.
Province wide, many pastures went into the fall severely moisture stressed and will need adequate moisture and warm temperatures as they break dormancy this spring, to insure a good start for the season. North of the Yellowhead highway, initial moisture supply will likely be adequate over the short term. However, for those lands lying south the “Wetaskiwin line” current snow packs are low to nonexistent and these areas will need additional moisture over the next 4-weeks. For those lands which are seeded annually, current moisture deficits are not quite as acute, but are equally serious. Spring seeded crops will need at least near normal and well timed moisture very soon after planting.
Last year’s hot and dry weather and lingering over winter moisture deficits have depleted moisture reserves making many areas very vulnerable to short duration dry spells. One big snow storm or even a very few wet days in the next 4-weeks will go a long way to helping give all crops a good start, ahead of the traditionally wetter weather that usually arrives May and June.
Agro-meteorology Applications and Modelling Unit