Drought conditions improve in May for some of Prairies, not all

Map from the Canadian Drought Monitor as of May 31, 2021. (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)

MarketsFarm — Significant precipitation through May relieved drought conditions across parts of the Prairies, while other areas remained significantly dry, according to the latest assessment from the Canadian Drought Monitor as of May 31.

This precipitation improved soil moisture conditions for the short-term, decreasing the area of moderate (D1) and severe drought (D2) in central Alberta and east along the Alberta-Saskatchewan border.

However, in Manitoba, the lack of spring precipitation caused drought conditions to worsen, with nearly all of the province’s agricultural regions in some state of drought. Extreme drought (D3) expanded north towards the Interlake region from the U.S.-Manitoba border as a result of exceptionally low precipitation values measured against historic data for the agricultural year. This continued lack of moisture also led to the addition of two exceptional drought (D4) pockets to form in the southwest corner of the province.

Overall, 57 per cent of the Prairie region was classified as either abnormally dry (D0), in moderate drought (D1), severe drought (D2), extreme drought (D3) or exceptional drought (D4) by the end of the month; this included 92 per cent of the agricultural landscape. Regionally, 85 per cent of Alberta’s agricultural landscape was classified as being dry or in drought, 96 per cent of Saskatchewan’s agricultural landscape was classified as being dry or in drought, and nearly 100 per cent of Manitoba’s agricultural landscape was classified as being abnormally dry (D0) or in moderate — exceptional drought (D1-D4).

In northwestern Saskatchewan, a large pocket of severe drought (D2) was removed due to 50 to 75 mm of precipitation through the past 30 days, accounting for 115 to 150 per cent of normal precipitation for the area. A pocket of moderate drought (D1) in the southeastern corner of the province also significantly improved; this led to a reduction to moderate and severe drought (D1 to D2) surrounding Regina given 25 to 45 per cent above-average precipitation in the month of May.

Conditions along the western Saskatchewan-U.S. border remained much the same, except for a swath south of Regina, which saw the removal of extreme drought (D3) given the recent precipitation. Although Saskatchewan saw improved drought conditions, water supply and water quality are still a concern in many regions. Precipitation through the month provided much needed moisture for pastures to green up, however, spring dryness delayed progress significantly.

Long-term impacts, including poor water supply from the 2020 growing season, continued to impact drought across the agricultural areas of Saskatchewan. A pocket of extreme drought (D3) emerged surrounding Swift Current, recorded as the second driest May in over 100 years. In the central region of the province, two moderate drought (D2) pockets were combined. Further north, moderate drought (D2) conditions were expanded to include the Prince Albert region due to below-average precipitation over the last 90 days.



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