If you farmed or ranched in the 1980s, you know a thing or two about drought. Just in case you forgot, the summer of 2017 reminded you. Although no one is surprised to hear 2017 described as a drought year, you might be shocked to learn just how little rain fell in Maple Creek during the growing season.
In June, July and August, Environment Canada recorded 57.9 mm of precipitation, that’s only 2.25 inches!
June is traditionally the wettest month of the year in Saskatchewan and yet Maple Creek saw only 36.2 mm or 1.5 inches. July was substantially drier at only 9.5 mm or a bit more than a quarter of an inch. August wasn’t much better as all of 12.2 mm or half an inch fell.
The wettest day of the three months was June 13 when 10.9 mm or almost half an inch of rain fell from the heavens.
For the same period in 2016, producers saw 218 mm or 8.6 inches of rain. By comparison, the same months in 2010 totalled 223 mm or 8.8 inches. Therefore, the difference between 2016 and the flood year of 2010 is only 5 mm or a quarter inch.
You will recall that the spring of 2016 was very dry. There was no run-off so many creeks stopped flowing. Ponds and sloughs dried up; their murky water evaporated then their once-muddy bottoms cracked and crumbled. Snow fall in May brought desperately-needed moisture and precipitation continued to fall all summer. It’s that accumulated moisture that producers relied on this year.
As to be expected, producers at higher elevations in the Cypress Hills saw more precipitation this year than producers at lower elevations, but not by much.
Environment Canada’s figures show that Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park received 87.8 mm or 3.5 inches of moisture in June, July and August. The wettest month was June when 41.1 mm or 1.6 inches accumulated.
More than half of July’s rainfall arrived in a single day. On July 11, 18.1 mm or 0.75 inches hit the dry ground, which was the wettest day of the summer. This pushed the month’s total to 30.9 mm or 1.25 inches.
For August, the Park only saw 15.8 mm or a touch above half an inch.
Historical weather data reveals Cypress Hills Park recorded 270 mm in 2016; that’s 10.5 inches.
Although the recent snowfall toppled some trees and sheared many branches, the moisture was needed. The early October snowfall was mixed with some rain and when the storm ended there was 14 cm or 5.5 inches of snow on the ground in Maple Creek. Meanwhile, Cypress Park reported 51 cm or 20 inches.
Here is what the Old Farmer’s Almanac is predicting for weather on the Prairies between Nov. 2017 and Oct. 2018, “Winter temperatures will be milder than normal, with the coldest periods from late November into early December, in mid-December, from late December into early January, and in early February.
Precipitation and snowfall will be below normal, with the snowiest periods in mid- to late November and mid-March. April and May will be slightly cooler and rainier than normal.
Summer will be warmer than normal with near-normal rainfall in the east and slightly cooler than normal and rainier in the west. The hottest periods will be in late July and early August.
September and October will have near-normal temperatures, with precipitation and snowfall near normal.”
NEWS PHOTO DOMINQUE LIBOIRON
What a difference a year makes. The water in the rain gauge shows how much rain fell in June, July and August of 2016 — enough to reach the black ring. For the same three months in 2017, Maple Creek only got 57.9 mm or 2.25 inches. That means this year’s rain wouldn’t even fill enough of the gauge to be seen in the picture.