Canada: Water deficits to persist across southern AB & SK

27 November 2018

THE BIG PICTURE
The 12-month outlook for Canada through July 2019 indicates vast pockets of intense water deficit in the east, as well as some large pockets elsewhere in the nation.

Intense deficits are forecast to encompass large blocks in: Quebec from the Caniapiscau Reservoir to beyond Michikamau Lake in Labrador, near the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and around Lake Mistassini; Ontario’s eastern border; northeastern Manitoba along Hudson Bay; the Upper and Middle Athabasca River region and northwestern Alberta; surrounding Prince George, British Columbia, and the Skeena River region in the northwest.

Areas of surplus include: northwestern Manitoba; northwestern Saskatchewan around Churchill Lake west to Fort McMurray, Alberta; and, northern British Columbia around Williston Lake, and southeastern BC.

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

The forecast through January indicates widespread, persist, exceptional deficits across central Quebec (QC) into central Labrador. Southern QC will transition from primarily deficit to moderate surplus conditions. In neighboring Ontario (ON), moderate deficits are forecast for Southern Ontario which may be more intense around Ottawa, and widespread surpluses for much of Northern Ontario with intense deficits in the northwest and along the eastern border.

A complex patchwork of water anomalies is forecast for the Prairie Provinces and British Columbia (BC). Deficits of varying severity are expected in pockets across southern Manitoba (MB), Saskatchewan (SK), and Alberta (AB), and will be severe to extreme in SK. Areas of intense deficit include: north of Lake Winnipeg (MB) and northeastern MB; north-central SK; much of northern AB and the Middle Reaches of the Athabasca River; and, northeastern BC, the Upper Skeena River region in the west, and the Fraser River region east of Prince George. Severe to exceptional surpluses are forecast for northwestern Manitoba (MB) leading west past Fort McMurray, Alberta (AB); along the Peace River in western AB leading through Fort St. John, BC, and past Williston Lake; and, southern BC.

From February through April, the forecast indicates a return to near-normal conditions in southern QC and across much of the breadth of ON. However, a vast block of exceptional deficits will persist from the southeastern arc of Hudson Bay into central Labrador, fringed by surpluses along the southern edge. A block of exceptional deficits will also persist between Lake Mistassini and the Gouin Reservoir in ON. Deficits in the Prairie Provinces will downgrade and surpluses of varying intensity will persist. In BC, deficits are expected to shrink and downgrade, while surpluses increase and downgrade.

The forecast for the final three months – May through July – indicates widespread, moderate to extreme deficits in the eastern half of the country, and less intense deficits in the west with surpluses in northern SK.

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

IMPACTS
Heavy rainfall reaching up to 25 millimeters (0.98 inches) in two hours forced several drivers in Vancouver to abandon their vehicles after driving through flooded roadways. The city received 128 calls for assistance during the flooding and authorities called on the public to help clear storm drains.

The national cattle herd is at its lowest level since 1988 as farmers cull their stocks in response to drought. Alberta - Canada’s largest beef producer - had less than 60 percent of the normal rainfall during much of the crop-growing season, leaving fields brown this year. Farmers in such conditions are also trucking in feed from dozens of miles away, the price of which nearly doubled from last year.

Level 4 drought in the British Columbia Interior, causing unprecedented low water levels in the Upper Skeena region, has hurt salmon runs in the area. Salmon are getting stuck behind beaver dams as water levels dropped to 50 percent below normal this past month. Lower water also means easier predation by grizzly bears; according to one biologist, the salmon have been traveling dozens of kilometers with their backs out of the water making them easy targets.

A year after the Quebec government promised to compensate victims of devastating floods in the western region of Outaouais, some victims complain that they still await compensation for repair work done to their damaged homes.

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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