Posted 13/04/2022

Moisture Situation Update as of April 5 2022

Synopsis (map 1)

Lack of moisture continues to be a major issue facing many producers across parts of the Central and Southern Regions, with some areas receiving less than 5 mm of precipitation over the past 30 days. Across the north-half of the province snow packs are still present north of the Yellowhead highway in many areas, but are in retreat as spring progresses.

In general weather patterns are expected to remain variable and turn cooler than normal, heading into next week following a warming trend that peaks this Friday (April 8th). Forecast models are variable with some predicting up to 10 mm of precipitation south of the TransCanada Highway, over the weakened and into Monday, while others are only hinting at a chance of flurries.

30-day precipitation accumulations, as of April 5, 2022 (map 1 and map 2)

Generally the south-half of the province has experienced dryer than normal weather patterns over the past 30-days, a condition that has now persisted for more than a year. A large area of the province, generally extending from Red Deer to the US border remains extremely dry with less than 5 mm recoded over the past 30 days (map 1). As one moves south from Red Deer the lack of moisture increases, with large areas experiencing a March this dry on average less than once in 6 to 12 years (map 2).

Moisture is needed now, across this entire area in order to get pastures off to a reasonable start. Note that March is historically a dry month and moisture deficits during this time frame are typically not a serious as they are during the peak growing season. However, what is concerning to many is that the dry spell has still not ended.

180-day precipitation accumulations, as of as of April 5, 2022 (map 3)

Over the past 180 days, a stark contrast between the north-half of the province and the south-half has developed with Wetaskiwin generally marking the dividing line. North of Wetaskiwin, near normal to above normal precipitation has been prevailing. South of Wetaskiwin this, moisture has been well below normal with conditions becoming drier still, starting near Red Deer and extending down the US border. Over the coming days wind erosion may be an issue as seeded land lies waiting to be planted.

Snow Packs as of April 5th 2022 (map 4)

As of April 5th, snows have not yet disappeared from many areas north of the Yellowhead highway (map 4). Throughout much of the North East, over winter precipitation has been well above normal (map 3), resulting in snowpacks that contain, in some areas well over 100 mm of water. For the most part, this is welcome as hot and dry conditions last year greatly depleted soil moisture reserves. Generally for all lands lying north of Wetaskiwin, lack of moisture does not appear to be a significant concern, as we head into the wet season (May to Mid August).

Perspective: normal monthly precipitation patterns (map 5)

Southern Alberta’s wet season historically gets into full swing by mid April and persists until near the end of June (map 5). This is a crucial time to received moisture. A long dry spell has left soil moisture reserves depleted across most of the south-half of the province, and crops will be highly reliant on well timed, at least near normal moisture patterns over this period. Over the next two weeks, a widespread spring snow storm or a few wet days, bringing 25 mm or more of moisture would be ideal to kick this growing season off to a good start. In 2002 Southern Alberta was very much in the same situation, following that drought of 2001. However, 2002 turned out to be a much wetter than normal growing season across the south. While this is not a prediction it serves as a reminder that weather remains highly unpredictable and weather patterns can shift dramatically from one extreme to the next.