Friday, June 11th 2021, 10:13 am - A dosage of soaking rains will certainly help put a dent into months of worsening drought across the Prairies, but will it be enough to overcome the dry conditions?
The Prairie provinces have been no stranger to thunderstorms this season, but a good, prolonged soaking has been hard to come by so far.
That looks to change this week: A slow-moving system that entered the region from the U.S., continuing until the weekend, will deliver a very thorough deluge to much of the region.
Not everyone will get the worst of it, but almost everyone will get at least a shower, and some areas of Saskatchewan could end up in the 75-100 mm range by the start of the weekend.
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'NEAR IDEAL' SETUP FOR NEEDED RAIN
Kevin MacKay, a meteorologist at The Weather Network, said a “near ideal” setup for heavy rain and strong thunderstorms is sitting over the region.
A strong ridge in the central United States is pumping moisture in from the Gulf of Mexico as far north as N.W.T., while the jet stream arches over the ridge to provide “great dynamics” for multiple rounds of storms.
“The wait is over. Significant and widespread rain is targeting the Prairie provinces through Friday. Those are two words that haven't been said in the same breath in quite a while in Western Canada,” said MacKay.
The first round of heavy rainfall on Tuesday brought more than 200 mm to parts of South Dakota. Although that is possible on the Canadian side of the border, it would require multiple training storms, MacKay noted.
However, 30-50 mm is likely for a broad swath of the region from southern Alberta to southwestern Manitoba. Southwestern Manitoba has seen less than 40 per cent of its average precipitation over the past year.
Central Saskatchewan, where the most rounds of storms are likely, could see amounts exceeding 75 mm locally.
“Now that planting season is done, all the rain will be welcomed news,” said MacKay.
That's an enormous amount of rain in one go, and it comes at a time when most of the region is considered to be in a drought condition by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
At the last reading, much of Saskatchewan was in at least a moderate drought, and parts of the province, and a large portion of neighbouring Manitoba, were in a severe to extreme drought.
A less snowy than normal winter, coupled with a relatively dry spring, has been the culprit. Though some showers did make a dent in the conditions for some regions, it's so far not been enough to completely make up for a year-long moisture deficit across almost all of the growing parts of the region.
The Weather Network reporter Kyle Brittain recently spoke with Todd Lewis, a farmer and president of the Agriculture Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS), about the drought situation.
Lewis noted a lot of areas in Saskatchewan currently have dry soil, so the province will need "continuing rains" in order to supply moisture to the crops.
"The producers are looking forward to these rainfalls. This is a good-news story this week. Farmers are always optimistic, and optimism is a lot higher now than it was a few days ago," said Lewis.
LOOKING AHEAD: WILL THIS INCOMING RAINFALL END THE DROUGHT?
Looking ahead, however, people hoping this is the end of the Prairies' drought as a whole should temper their expectation, as forecasters expect a drier pattern to return to the region next week. July and August look likely to be drier than normal across the southern growing areas.
As a silver lining, Dr. Doug Gillham, a meteorologist for The Weather Network, says this week's downpours will still have some long-range benefits, as they will actually enhance the potential for scattered showers and thunderstorms over the summer.
"When a region is experiencing widespread drought conditions, there is minimal evapotranspiration to feed the development of scattered thunderstorms," Gillham says. "The widespread heavy rain this week will help to provide more low-level moisture that can help with the development of thunderstorms until the region dries out again."