Soil moisture seen varied across Alberta

Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development staff say late fall and early spring conditions have caused some unusual and quite varied soil moisture levels across the province.

North of Red Deer, many areas saw snow packs persisting well into April. Much of the province experienced a cold April that has been seen fewer than half a dozen times over the past 50 years, said Ralph Wright, who heads up AARD’s agro-meteorology and modelling section in Edmonton.

“In stark contrast, May marked the beginning of warm, generally dry weather throughout the province, with most areas enjoying sustained above average temperatures,” said Wright. “This was precisely what was needed to kick start spring seeding. Unfortunately, soil moisture reserves are dwindling due to lack of rainfall, but the province’s typical wet season, June and July, is just around the corner.”

Several maps have been posted on AARD’s website — in particular a map that details the April 2013 temperatures relative to long-term normal, 15-day temperatures relative to long-term normal as of May 20, and growing season precipitation accumulations relative to long-term normal as of May 20.

“Recently, and as is often the case in Alberta, significant shifts in weather patterns have occurred over the span of a few days,” said Wright. “The first two weeks in May were another example of this, with parts of the province seeing the warmest sustained temperatures during the first half of May in over 50 years, which were perfect for seeding operations.”

Generally below-normal precipitation accumulations have occurred over most of the province, with many areas seeing conditions this dry on average less than once in three to six years.

Deeper deficits are beginning to develop through the central Peace Region and along the Trans-Canada Highway between Calgary and Brooks.

However, for most areas, the last week in May typically marks the start of the wet season, which persists until the first week of July in southern Alberta, and well into early August throughout the Peace region.

“Late snow melt and a quick start to spring have left most areas with adequate surface moisture,” said Wright. “The soil moisture deficits portrayed in the mentioned maps are typically at deeper levels and should cause no concern given a return to normal precipitation patterns.” — Network

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