El Nino seen bringing mixed weather to Prairies

CNS Canada — Warmer-than-normal water in the Pacific Ocean this year could have a mixed influence on the Canadian Prairies, according to a weather specialist.

Forecasters warn the phenomenon, better known as El Nino, could disrupt weather patterns in many parts of the world.

El Nino’s effects are largely determined by the predominating weather pattern at the time of the warm air’s arrival. But Canada is a slightly different case as it’s difficult for the warming pattern to reach so far north without being influenced by traditional weather norms, said meteorologist Drew Lerner of World Weather Inc. in Kansas City.

Lerner said he expects the northeastern half of Saskatchewan, along with western parts of Manitoba to be slightly warmer and drier than normal in the spring and early summer, with wetter conditions in Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan. However, he stressed, this pattern doesn’t mean drought conditions will set in.

“Precipitation events will come into the region, but they’ll be lighter than normal,” Lerner added.

The situation could then flip-flop in the second half of the growing season, with Alberta and southwest Saskatchewan seeing a drier bias, and the southern part of Manitoba becoming wetter. Lerner also thinks Alberta could see a warm finish to the summer season.

Signals from El Nino are still weak, he cautioned.

“El Nino hasn’t even started to evolve yet, it will evolve rather quickly though as we go from April into May, and by the time we get to June, it will likely be pretty well established,” said Lerner.

While El Nino’s effects on Western Canada’s summer pattern might be muted, the same can’t be said if it persists into the winter.

“If El Nino is deeply entrenched, you will have a warmer and drier-based winter across the Prairies,” he said.

— Dave Sims writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.


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