January brought wild temperature swings, but still no significant drought relief for Western Canada.
The latest monthly update of the Canadian drought monitor showed 100% of Prairie farmland continued to be impacted by abnormal dryness or some form of drought as of the end of January, unchanged from December (see map below).
A few storms did bring much-needed moisture to southern Alberta and central agricultural regions of Saskatchewan in January, the monitor said, although the amounts were far too light to offset the precipitation deficits from last year’s growing season.
Meanwhile, temperatures that reached as high as 20 degrees C in some locations by end of January – following a bout of bone-chilling cold around the middle of the month that sent the mercury tumbling to as low as –40 C – meant most of the southern Prairies were basically snow-free heading into February, the monitor said.
Alberta continues to bear the brunt of the Prairie dryness, with areas of severe, extreme, and exceptional drought persisting in the southern parts of the province and expanding slightly northward due to ongoing long-term deficits and emerging short-term deficits in the east-central parts of the province.
“Significant concern remains for this region going into the spring as reservoirs are still extremely low compared to normal and mountain snowpack has been limited thus far this year,” the monitor said.
The Peace River region in northwestern Alberta also saw an expansion of severe and extreme drought conditions in January.
Most of Saskatchewan trended drier than normal in January, except central parts of the agricultural region that received near- to above-normal precipitation. Still, drought conditions remained relatively unchanged compared to December.
Manitoba reported near-normal precipitation in January, with below normal amounts in the southern parts of the province largely offset by heavier amounts in the northern areas. Moderate drought improved across northern and eastern Manitoba. However, severe drought expanded across northwestern parts of the province due to ongoing precipitation deficits and low water levels reported. Changes were limited in southern Manitoba, with short- and long-term deficits persisting.