Stormy Weather Blues: Wet harvest expected this fall
By Tim Kalinowski, Staff Writer
Farmers are not getting any good news from the weatherman to start the month of August. For many parts of southern Alberta, July was the wettest period on record in some time, mostly due to the proliferation of storms which have passed through the region. According to Ralph Wright, head of Agro-meteorological and Application section of Agriculture and Forestry, there is no indication that trend will be over any time soon.
“All the forecast models are generally in agreement that these storms are going to stick around for several days, well into August,” said Wright. “How wet is this July? It has been quite wet relative to normal for almost all of southern Alberta. Pretty much from Calgary to Medicine Hat, all along the TransCanada highway, we have areas that are this wet in July only once in 50 years. You are seeing anywhere from 125 -150 mm. That’s extremely wet in July for you.”
Patricia, Alberta has been the big winner or loser, depending on your perspective. Patricia has 300 mm of rain through June and July with Stathmore a close second at 250 mm. The driest part of the country has been OneFour, according to Wright, which is actually slightly below normal for precipitation year to date.
“What we have since April 1 is a mixed bag across southern Alberta,” confirmed Wright. “It’s been slightly below normal for some areas west of Lethbridge and as you head east it’s getting wetter to the point of where in and around Medicine Hat since April 1 you have between a 1 in 12 precipitation to a 1 in 25 precipitation growing season. As you head up north to the Special Areas we are up at about 1 in 25 to 1 in 50 years.”
Wright went on to say the next big concern for farmers bogged down in their harvest due to rain will be frost. Current models project a 25 per cent probability of a -3 C frost before September 20 for both the Lethbridge and Calgary areas.
For the Medicine Hat area that probability exists slightly later; Wright’s models say before Sept. 26 there.
Wright said there is an outside chance farmers may get the sunny break they need to end the month of August, but there is no certainty that far out.
“Farmers would definitely like the taps turned off,” he acknowledged. “It would be nice to see that for some of those areas, particularly north of the TransCanada between Calgary and Medicine Hat. Who saw this (rain) coming in April? Not very many people.”
For more information, and access to Agro-Climatic Information Service’s precipitation and weather projections, visit www.weatherdata.ca.