Canada: Water deficits forecast to downgrade in the Prairie Provinces

25 June 2018

The 12-month outlook for Canada through February 2019 (below) indicates water deficits of varying intensity in many parts of the country, with the exception of southern British Columbia and northwestern Saskatchewan into Alberta, where intense surpluses are expected.

Deficits are forecast to be intense in a large block of eastern Quebec from the Caniapiscau Reservoir to the St. Lawrence River, and around Lake Mistassini in central Quebec; Ontario’s eastern border; and, northeastern Manitoba and north of Lake Winnipeg. In the West, significant deficits are forecast for the Lower Athabasca and Lower Peace River regions of Alberta, and a large pocket in British Columbia (BC) surrounding Prince George.

Surplus conditions are expected in a large block of northwestern Saskatchewan around Churchill Lake westward to Fort McMurray, Alberta; and surrounding Kamloops and Kelowna, BC.

The 3-month maps (below) show the evolving conditions in more detail.

The forecast through August indicates a significant retreat of exceptional deficits in the center of the country. In Ontario, however, exceptional deficits will persist in a path along its eastern border leading to the south end of Georgian Bay. Northwest of Lake Superior, a transition from deficit to surplus is forecast. In Southern Ontario, surpluses are expected northwest of Toronto, and moderate deficits are forecast from Peterborough to Ottawa. In Quebec, deficits will be extreme around Sherbrooke, and exceptional near Lake Mistassini and from the Caniapiscau Reservoir to the St. Lawrence River. The area east of Hudson Bay will transition from surplus to mild deficit. Deficits are forecast for the remainder of the province with the exception of a wide path west of the St. Lawrence River exhibiting conditions of both deficit and surplus.

In the Prairie Provinces, moderate deficits are forecast for southern Saskatchewan but deficits may be severe in southern Manitoba. Even more intense deficits are forecast north of Lake Winnipeg and around Hudson Bay in Manitoba, and in the Upper Athabasca and Lower Peace River Regions of Alberta. Deficits will also be intense surrounding Prince George, BC and in northern BC. Surpluses will increase in southern BC and across the border into southwestern Alberta, and will reach exceptional levels around Kamloops and Kelowna. Exceptional surpluses will also increase in northwestern Saskatchewan, reaching west to Fort McMurray, Alberta.

From September through November, deficits nationwide are expected to moderate, though intense deficits will persist in some areas, including Prince George, BC. Surpluses will downgrade near Kamloops but will remain exceptional near Kelowna, BC. The large block of intense surpluses in northern Alberta into Saskatchewan will persist but will begin to transition as deficits emerge. Deficits in southern Manitoba will downgrade from severe to moderate, and deficits in southern Saskatchewan will become merely mild.

The forecast for the final three months – December through February – indicates mild anomalies overall, with moderate deficits in central Quebec; northern Ontario; along the North Saskatchewan, Athabasca, and Peace Rivers in the West; and northern and central BC. Significant surpluses are forecast to persist around Kelowna.

(It should be noted that forecast skill declines with longer lead times.)

By mid-May, Winnipeg in southern Manitoba was experiencing its driest conditions in nearly 40 years, prompting one local community to ban water use in pools, lawns, and hot tubs, and forcing provincial officials to contemplate a fire ban. Some rainfall later in the month improved soil moisture for germination and greened up pastures but failed to alleviate overall drought conditions.

In southern Saskatchewan, farmers who were praying for rain mere weeks ago saw more from one storm that finally arrived in early June than they had seen since June of last year, threatening lentil crops.

Emergency officials in British Columbia say that the time gap between flood season and wildfire season has shrunk in the last decade. The province, areas of which are still evacuated due to flood risk, is now at risk of summer drought after its snowpack melted earlier than normal. Summer temperatures will largely determine how fast the remaining snowpack melts, and thus how quickly stream levels diminish.

At least 71 people remain displaced from their homes after severe New Brunswick floods in April and May. Over 2,600 people have applied for disaster assistance, and over 100 have been advanced federal funds. Some Canadian scientists, specialists in hydrology and climate change adaptation, say that New Brunswick should do more to prepare in advance for flooding disasters, as changing climatic patterns may be increasing the frequencies and severity of flood events.

There are numerous regions around the world where country borders are contested. ISciences depicts country boundaries on these maps solely to provide some geographic context. The boundaries are nominal, not legal, descriptions of each entity. The use of these boundaries does not imply any judgement on the legal status of any territory, or any endorsement or acceptance of disputed boundaries on the part of ISciences or our data providers.

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Many analyses reported in ISciences-authored blog posts are based on data generated by the ISciences Water Security Indicator Model (WSIM). Other sources, if used, are referenced in footnotes accompanying individual posts. WSIM is a validated capability that produces monthly reports on current and forecast global freshwater surpluses and deficits with lead times of 1-9 months at 0.5°x0.5° resolution. This capability has been in continuous operation since April 2011 and has proven to provide reliable forecasts of emerging water security concerns in that time-frame. WSIM has the ability to assess the impacts of water anomalies on people, agriculture, and electricity generation. Detailed data, customized visualizations, and reports are available for purchase.

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