March 2, 2022

As ‘heat dome’ hovers over Prairies, farmers pray for precipitation

Manitoba’s hot, hot week is coming to a close, but not before a scorching finale this weekend.

Nearly the entire province, save for the stretch along Hudson’s Bay, was under a heat warning as of Saturday morning.

The ambient temperature in Winnipeg was set to top out higher than 30 C for the fifth straight day — and it could be the hottest of the bunch, with Environment Canada forecasting a high of 37.

For anyone out in the heat, it could feel closer to 39 or even 40 when factoring in the humidity.

The cause for these extreme temperatures? A “heat dome.” In the past week, a relatively unknown weather term has quickly burned its way into the minds of western Canadians.

Read more:
Western Canada heat wave: How to stay cool and plan for future hot spells

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“It’s just a large, strong area of high pressure in the upper part of the atmosphere,” Environment Canada meteorologist Justin Shelley told 680 CJOB.

“What it does, is it pushes warm air down to the surface, creates a stable environment … conditions favourable for high temperatures.”

Stable it has been, in Manitoba, with little to no breeze to break up the heavy hot air, which is atypical to a regular summer in the province.

Saturday looks to be the exception, with winds gusting anywhere from 30 to 50 kilometres per hour.

As for any active weather, Shelley said there’s a chance of a storm — albeit a small one.

“[We could see] showers with the risk of thunderstorms Saturday night into Sunday, but unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there’s any long-lasting rain in the forecast for southern Manitoba into next week.

That’s exactly what farmers in the province didn’t want to hear.

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Manitoba’s ‘Watches and Warnings’ map on Environment Canada is nearly covered in red, save for a stretch along Hudson’s Bay. Nearly the entire province was under a heat warning on Saturday morning.

Manitoba’s ‘Watches and Warnings’ map on Environment Canada is nearly covered in red, save for a stretch along Hudson’s Bay. Nearly the entire province was under a heat warning on Saturday morning.


Environment Canada

Some timely rains in June alleviated early concerns about a drought-filled growing season, but just weeks later, those worries are back.

“We’re in desperate shape, and we’ll be in ‘next year’ territory if this keeps up much longer,” said agricultural correspondent Harry Siemens, adding that he has a growing collection of anecdotes just like that one from farmers all over the province.

“I drove up to Clear Lake this week just to look at crops,” Siemens explains. “I wasn’t seeing very good stuff out there.”

Siemens says a few Westman towns are doing better than others, but everyone needs help.

For him, it hearkens back to the 1988 growing season — one of the worst droughts he can remember in nearly eight decades of living in Manitoba.

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“Back then, we had dust blowing around everywhere. The only reason we’re not getting that right now is because crops are in the ground.”

“But if this lack of moisture and heat continues, we’re getting into that area.”

It’s not exclusively Manitoba’s problem, either, Siemens said, sharing a note from a Montana farmer he reached out to online.

Read more:
Heat, dry conditions impacting crops in Saskatchewan

“‘Getting desperate over here. Spring wheat zeroed out by crop insurance. Flax and canola are toast. We may be haying some winter wheat that may not make it.’ There are lots of those kinds of stories.”

Temperatures are expected to cool off following another hot day on Sunday, and even dip below-seasonal by mid-week in the Red River Valley.

But without any rain coming down, Siemens fears it’ll be too little, too late for the 2021 growing season.


Click to play video: 'Drought outlook tool first of its kind in Canada to predict drought conditions 30 days in advance'



Drought outlook tool first of its kind in Canada to predict drought conditions 30 days in advance


Drought outlook tool first of its kind in Canada to predict drought conditions 30 days in advance




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