Prairies can expect unexpected from El Nino this summer

Sea surface temperature anomalies over the equatorial Pacific for the week centred on April 3, 2019. (

MarketsFarm — The U.S. National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center on Thursday reported a 65 per cent chance of El Nino prevailing throughout 2019’s growing season.

“A weak El Nino is likely to continue through the Northern Hemisphere summer 2019 (65 per cent chance) and possibly fall (50-55 per cent chance),” the CPC’s report said.

As long as El Nino continues, central, south-central and southwestern Saskatchewan can expect wetter weather throughout the spring and summer.

“El Nino in the summer tends to produce a shift in weather, usually increasing precipitation across the southern Prairies,” said Drew Lerner, president of World Weather Inc. in Kansas City.

In southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan, El Nino could bring some much-needed rain to crops. “The spring bias is to be wetter,” he said. “You will encounter that most likely in May.

“Manitoba will see a bit more precipitation in the summer.”

Conversely, El Nino can also cause decreased precipitation in northwestern Alberta, “mostly Peace River country and northern crop areas,” Lerner said.

“Those areas tend to have below-average precipitation, whereas the southern parts of the Prairies tend to have timely rainfall.”

Since years of dry summers have impacted soil conditions, Manitoba Corn Growers Association field agronomist Morgan Cott believes a wet spring will be a balm for corn crops.

“I’m more concerned about how much moisture we will have gained because of the dryness over the past few years,” she said.

The El Nino-related system that has hovered over the Prairies for most of the winter is considered weak, and may continue to weaken. A weakening El Nino will leave room for weather to be impacted by stronger systems.

“If it does [weaken], there’s potential that other weather patterns may have a greater influence on the Prairies,” said Lerner.

“Because it’s a weak El Nino, and weakening, that opens the door for potential changes.”

El Nino is the name for the climate phenomenon tied to periodic warming in sea surface temperatures across the central and east-central Pacific Ocean.

The Pacific warming in an El Nino creates changes in patterns of tropical rainfall from Indonesia halfway around the world to the west coast of South America, in turn affecting weather patterns worldwide.

According to Environment Canada, El Nino is most often associated with milder-than-normal winters and springs in Western, northwestern and central Canada.

El Nino isn’t known to significantly impact Eastern Canada, except in that it’s been linked to reduced tropical cyclone activity in the Atlantic.

— Marlo Glass writes for MarketsFarm, a Glacier FarmMedia division specializing in grain and commodity market analysis and reporting.


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