Canada: Exceptional water deficits to decrease in the Prairie Provinces

25 July 2018

THE BIG PICTURE
The 12-month outlook for Canada through March 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.

Intense deficits are forecast to encompass vast blocks in: eastern Quebec from the Caniapiscau Reservoir to the St. Lawrence River; surrounding Lake Mistassini in central Quebec; Ontario’s eastern border; northeastern Manitoba and north of Lake Winnipeg; the Lower Athabasca and Lower Peace River regions of Alberta; surrounding Prince George, British Columbia; and, northwestern BC. Though smaller than the aforementioned areas, pockets of intense deficit are also forecast in southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba including around Regina (SK) and Winnipeg (MB).

Exceptional 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.

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

The forecast through September indicates some retreat of exceptional deficits overall. However, exceptional deficits will persist in Quebec from the Caniapiscau Reservoir to the St. Lawrence River and surrounding Lake Mistassini. Deficits will be moderate to severe around Montreal but could be extreme slightly east surrounding Sherbrooke. A wide path of both deficit and surplus conditions is forecast west of the St. Lawrence River.

In Ontario, deficits along the eastern border will shrink but persist and are expected to remain intense, though conditions around Ottawa will be moderate. Surpluses will increase around Lake Nipigon near Lake Superior, normal conditions are forecast northeast of Lake Superior to James Bay, and moderate deficits are expected elsewhere.

In the Prairie Provinces, moderate deficits are forecast for southern Manitoba but will be severe in the southeast and also north of Lake Winnipeg. Surpluses of exceptional intensity will persist in a vast block of northwestern Saskatchewan reaching west to Fort McMurray, Alberta. Deficits in the Lower Peace River Region of northwestern Alberta will downgrade, and while exceptional deficits will shrink in the Upper Athabasca Region intense conditions will persist. Intense deficits are also forecast to persist in northwestern BC and in a large pocket surrounding Prince George. Intense surpluses will persist in southeastern region of the province, and intense deficits in southern Vancouver Island and inland along the lower reaches of the Fraser River.

From October through December deficits nationwide are expected to decrease and moderate, leaving much of the eastern half of the country with normal to moderate conditions. Deficits may be more severe in Nova Scotia. Intense deficits are forecast for central Manitoba north of Lake Winnipeg and north of Prince George, BC, and deficits will be severe on Vancouver Island. Surpluses are expected to shrink in southeastern BC but remain exceptional around Kelowna. The large block of surplus in northwestern Saskatchewan will diminish and downgrade slightly but exceptional conditions will persist around Fort McMurray, Alberta.

The forecast for the final three months – January through March – indicates a pattern of anomalies similar to the prior three-month forecast.

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

IMPACTS
Montreal public health officials attributed 53 deaths in the city to a recent heatwave that hit southern Quebec from June 30 to July 7. Around 70 deaths in the province at large resulted from oppressive temperatures in the first week of this month.

Low rainfall in eastern Ontario and western Quebec is threatening water supplies, prompting a least two municipalities to ask residents to voluntarily limit water use. Lake and river levels are below average in the Ottawa Valley - Ottawa has received less than 1 mm of rain so far this month compared to 19.4 mm in July 2012, a drought year, and 249 mm in 2017.

An Ottawa exterminator says that service calls are up 20 to 25 percent from the past two years, and that the rise can be attributed to rodents attempting to find water in a dry landscape. While the "mousies" generally prefer to live al fresco, drought has driven them indoors in search of a cool drink.

Several wildfires in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley are burning out of control this month, putting thousands of residents and some campers under evacuation alerts and forcing a portion of one major highway to shut down. Environment Canada issued a "smokey skies" health bulletin for the area, warning of compromised air quality, and several emergency reception centers were opened. The fires were sparked by a lightning storm that swept across the province’s southern interior, where the fire danger rating remains moderate to high, with some extreme pockets.

The province of New Brunswick will begin investing in flood-hazard mapping next year. Part of the province’s Climate Change Action Plan, the $1.14 million (USD $866,000) project will create one map for inland areas and one for coastal areas, and will serve infrastructure planning and emergency preparedness.

NOTE ON ADMINISTRATIVE BOUNDARIES
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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