Calgary (Rural Roots Canada) – A dry growing season ended with precipitation in some parts of the province in August.
Looking back at the month, Meteorologist David Spence says precipitation varied depending on the region.
Central Alberta saw normal to slightly above average rainfall conditions, while Peace Country was dry, however, nowhere near as dry as it was in the south.
“For Calgary, we had about 26.1 millimetres of rain, the average is 57 millimetres, so we’re less than half there, and for Lethbridge, just 10.2 millimetres of rain in all of August, and the average is 36.4,” says Spence.
Everyone knows the growing season was very dry, with precipitation amounts well below average and conditions warmer than average.
“In Calgary, for example, we had 76 per cent of our average annual precipitation for the months of June, July and August, and for Lethbridge, only 32 per cent.”
Generally speaking, in southern Alberta, east of Calgary, it was much drier than average.
The only exception to the southern Alberta drought was in the southwestern corner of the province, where places like Waterton, Pincher Creek, and Crowsnest Pass had above-average precipitation, most of which fell toward the end of August.
This year’s dry conditions could become a bigger problem if farmers don’t see any precipitation in the coming months, as the moisture deficit in the ground will build.
Spence says while we don’t want to see any rain while farmers are trying to harvest the crops, we need to get some moisture soon after it is over.
“When we get into spring (next growing season) of next year, we must have a good moisture base in the ground. Unless we get that rain, there could be a problem carrying over from this season into next season because there won’t be that base of moisture in the ground in the springtime to help with the planting.”
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Looking ahead to September, when farmers will put down the hammer to complete the harvest, Spence says the month is historically one of transition, maybe the biggest one of the year.
“The average temperature drops by about eight degrees on average from August to September, so it does get cooler.”
Farmers usually keep an eye on the thermometer at this time of year, focusing on how far the mercury is dropping overnight as frost is in the air if it hits zero.
Spence breaks down what we typically see for frost during the month, using the Alberta government climate site as a guide.
For the Calgary region, it’s on or about September 15.
“That’s when it goes above the 50 per cent mark; before September 15, you have less than a 50 per cent chance of frost. After September 15, it’s 50 per cent plus. And then by the time you’re at September 27, you have an 85 per cent chance of frost.”
Looking south, the sample for the Lethbridge region shows a 50 per cent chance of frost on September 17, and the 29th is when it hits the 85 per cent mark.
However, Spence says you have to temper that because it can be a very deceiving statistic as it only means the temperature will get down to zero, which is not a killing frost necessarily.
On top of that, unexpected events can happen that will push the frost back or forth in an unpredictable way.
Farmers are looking for the warm weather to hold as they work to get their crops off the field as they look for a break after a challenging growing season.