Winnipeg records driest July in almost 150 years
Summer drought follows 21-month dry spell with impacts on crops, farmers, wildfires
Winnipeg set a new record for the driest July since records began nearly 150 years ago in 1873.
Rob Paola, a retired Environment Canada meteorologist who still follows weather and weather history in southern Manitoba, says the Winnipeg airport recorded 8.5 millimetres of rain this past July, when the 30-year average is 75.8 millimetres.
That comes after a prolonged 21-month dry spell that has depleted groundwater sources and sucked the moisture out of the soil.
"Our precipitation deficit now, since the end of 2019, is closing in on 400 millimetres now in Winnipeg," Paola said.
"It's just a staggering amount of precipitation shortfall that we really need to make up."
The previous record for the driest July was set in 2011, when 10 millimetres of rain fell.
Impacts of this historic drought can be seen all around, including withered crops, local water shortages and smoke from wildfires.
Rural municipalities in Manitoba have declared local states of emergency and cattle farmers have been forced to sell part or all of their herds because the cost of feed is too expensive.
On July 22, Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler said the Assiniboine River was the driest it has been since 1961. The flow rate at Headingley, Man., on that date was 472 cubic feet per second, when normally it is 2,920 cubic feet per second.
On Aug. 1, it was 183.6 cubic feet per second.
Not all regions in southern Manitoba have experienced the same level of dryness, Paola said.
"There were some areas of southern Red River Valley in southwest Manitoba that picked up more substantial rain during the month. But here in the northern Red River Valley, southern Interlake, it was exceedingly dry and historically dry," he said.
Firefighters and farmers alike desperately need rain, and while precipitation patterns are difficult to predict, the short-term outlook may offer some hope, Paola said.
"We are seeing hints that towards later next week and into next week, there should be a little bit more of an unsettled pattern and slightly cooler conditions coming, so hopefully that will start giving us better rain chances," he said.
"Beyond that, the outlook is still calling for below-normal precipitation into September."
Heading into the winter and spring, Paola said the region needs a lot of precipitation to make up the nearly two-year deficit.