Moisture prospects on the Prairies looking better than year ago; Ontario in for stormy weather thru March

(Debra Murphy/RealAgriculture)

While drought is still top of mind in Western Canada, especially in areas of southern Alberta and Saskatchewan that are without snow, there are reasons to be hopeful for more moisture on the Prairies than last year.

With La Nina fading, it’s possible a shift in the jet stream along the West Coast could result in more precipitation inland from the Rocky Mountains,¬†explains Eric Snodgrass, principal atmospheric scientist with Nutrien, in the interview below.

“Do we have a chance of this improving as we go towards spring? I have a saying: spring rains can undo all of winter’s sins, but we have to get the jet stream to really change its position,” he says, noting ideally, the ridge that we’ve seen through January and early February would move out to the Aleutian Islands.

“You get it out there, we end up getting much faster flow, almost straight out of the west, it ignites more systems, they come through, bring in the snow now, they bring in the rain later, we start to cure the drought.”

So what’s the chance of that happening? Those chances are improving, Snodgrass says, but it’s not a slam dunk just yet.

“I’ll say this: it’s looking better than it did a year ago. That’s important news. We’ve got better prospects than we did last year,” explains Snodgrass. “A lot of that’s predicated on the fact that La Nina is fading. And we want to get that La Nina pattern out and get back into what we call El Nino, which is where the atmosphere tends to flow more freely across much of the Canadian prairie.”

He also suggests paying attention to the historic drought in the southwest U.S., from California to Texas.

“Why that far south? Well, if the pattern shifts around to deliver California what we call a ‘miracle March’ or an ‘amazing April,’ where they finally get the moisture they need, that is also the same pattern that will revive the moisture return clear through the southern Canadian Prairies,” notes Snodgrass.

On the other hand, if the drought in Texas expands and moves north into Nebraska and South Dakota, that could set the southern Canadian Prairies up for a more stormy summer.

“All the fun weather, it goes around the periphery, we call it the ring of fire. And if that sets up, you tend to have a very stormy summer pattern which can locally deliver heavy rains, but also unfortunately, bring in some severe storms,” he says. “So at this point, I’m actually getting concerned about that being the situation.”

It’s a very different situation in Ontario and the eastern Corn Belt.

“Unfortunately, over the next 10 days, that whole region is going to get absolutely slammed. We’ve got very, very wet weather from the mid south to the eastern Corn Belt, we’re talking two to eight inches of rain, snow on the backside, snow gets into Eastern Ontario, just south and east of Lake Huron,” he says.

The eastern region is in for wet conditions, says Snodgrass, noting models are projecting wet, snowy conditions will continue in the east through the end of March.

Check out the interview above for more with Snodgrass on the weather outlook heading into spring: