El Nino’s exit could open door to spring rain, but unlikely to replenish deficit on Prairies, says Lerner

The odds of much-needed precipitation in Western Canada this spring will depend on how quickly the Pacific Ocean transitions out of El Nino, but even if a switch to La Nina opens the door to more moisture, it likely won’t be enough to replenish low water supplies in the driest areas of the Prairies, according to the president of World Weather Inc.

“In the past, when we moved from an El Nino to a La Nina in a short period of time, the impact on the Prairies is usually fairly significant, with widespread rains,” explains Drew Lerner in the interview below, recorded following his presentation at CropConnect in Winnipeg, Man. this week. “If we transition slowly, we’ll still have some benefit from the moisture, but it just may not be quite as abundant. But either way, the combination of losing El Nino and maybe going into a La Nina can be helpful to us.”

On the other hand, the 18-year cycle, which Lerner closely follows, is stubbornly signalling another drier growing season for much of North America, harkening back to 2005-2006 and the drought of 1988.

“What’s interesting is that all of these 18-year cycle years seem to have a little bit of a dryer bias in the middle of North America for the summer, for sure,” he says. “La Nina will help to enhance the drier and warmer scenario that’s already in the 18-year cycle down in the States, but for the Prairies, that’s a different story. We’ve got an environment here that will bring us a mix of weather this spring. We are not going to fix southern Alberta with any weather event this spring, don’t get me wrong, but we’re going to see some opportunities for moisture.”

The warm temperatures in much of Western Canada this winter can be partially attributed to El Nino, but Lerner believes the 2022 Hunga Tonga volcano that sent moisture 36 miles into the stratosphere in the south Pacific is also preventing the Earth from cooling down as much as it would normally.

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