Winnipeg hot on trail of weather record as temperatures sizzle

Southern Manitoba is moving closer to a three-decade-old record as it continues to sear under scorching temperatures.

Heat warnings continue in southern Manitoba, air quality alerts issued for central areas

The forecast daily highs for southern Manitoba range from 29 C to 36 C for the rest of the week and into the weekend, the Environment Canada says. (Eva Hambach/AFP/Getty Images)

Southern Manitoba is moving closer to a three-decade-old record as it continues to sear under scorching temperatures.

As of Sunday, Winnipeg has recorded 16 days with temperatures of 30 C or higher since May 17, when mercury topped out at 31.8 C, according to Rob Paola, a retired Environment Canada meteorologist who runs the popular website and Twitter account @robsobs.

On average, Winnipeg sees 13 days a year when temperatures reach or surpass that mark. The city recorded 20 such days last year while the record is 35, set in 1988, Paola said.

So far for 2021, there was the one day in May, nine in June and six — and counting — in July.

"Certainly we do get the heat spells across the Prairies in the summer but this year they seem to have come a little bit earlier than usual. Usually we get them in July and August more so," said Terri Lang, a meteorologist at Environment and Climate Change Canada.

"And I've looked at the long-range forecast and it doesn't look good; looks like more heat coming — even hotter heat, if I can say that."

The forecast calls for a high of 30 C on Monday and at least that for Wednesday through Sunday. If that holds, the expected high of 29 C for Tuesday would be the coolest day of the week with temperatures soaring to 35 C by the weekend.

"It's just one of those summers. We'll see how things sort of sift out at the end but it could be one for the record books for sure."

'The damage is done'

Despite the roasting temperatures, Winnipeg is not part of the pocket of heat warnings surrounding it.

The current warnings include the Portage la Prairie-Headingley area west of Winnipeg, the Morden-Winkler-Morris region to the south and southwest, as well as the Steinbach-St. Adolphe-Emerson-Richer areas to the south and southeast.

The Portage la Prairie area could see highs of 36 C later in the week.

Brad Erb, whose family runs a grain farm in the Oak Bluff area, southwest of Winnipeg, said the heat combined with a lack of any significant precipitation has battered his crops.

"It has a severe effect on us grain farmers in the area. We're now at the point of critical, where we've already lost significant potential in our crop and if this forecast holds true for the next couple of weeks I would suggest that we're going to suffer some significant crop loss this year," he said.

Typically at this time of the growing season, the crops would have a good height to them and would be filling out "and be nice and green," said Erb, who is also the reeve of the Rural Municipality of Macdonald.

This year, the plants are much shorter and they are not flowering near enough to yield the grains. The heat is actually burning off the flowers or they're just snapping off.

"The damage is done. It just gets worse from here," said Erb.

As much as the grain farms are suffering, so are cattle operations, he noted. Pasture lands are so dry there's just not enough volume to make hay bales.

The drought conditions, which have also caused a surge in forest fires across the Prairies, are the compounded result of a dry fall, followed by a dry winter, followed by a dry spring and now summer, said Lang.

One crop for which Erb is still holding out hope is soybeans, which tend to rely on water later in the season.

"So if we had significant rainfall there's still potential, in this area," he said.

The month of June usually brings about 90 millimetres of rain in southern Manitoba. This year there was 42.2 and much of that fell during a June 9 storm that dropped 33.8 mm.

"With rainfalls you're hoping to get something long lasting but it's just been dribs and drabs [for the most part]," Lang said.

Average rainfall in July is 79.5 mm. Through two weeks so far, it has been 0.4 mm.

Crop insurance will help keep some farmers afloat but the overall loss of revenue won't provide for any investment in capital, Erb said.

"So that's a pretty significant impact there."

Air quality warnings

The heat can also have a severe impacts on people and those in regions where temperatures are spiking are urged to take steps to prevent heat-related illnesses, Environment Canada says on its website. 

Drink plenty of water before you even feel thirsty and stay in a cool place. If you must go out, take water with you.

Stay out of direct sunlight and wear loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing and use wide-brimmed hat or umbrella. Take a cool shower or bath or take a break in a cool location, such as an air-conditioned building or a tree-shaded area.

Meanwhile, the central part of the province is under several air quality warnings due to forest fire smoke blowing in from northern Saskatchewan and northwestern Ontario and giving an orange tint to the sky.

"It's two different sources, but the net result is the same thing. It's kind of orange and and at times you can smell it," said Environment Canada meteorologist Dave Carlsen. 

South to southwest winds are likely to keep the Ontario smoke over the easternmost parts of central Manitoba at least through Monday evening, according to the weather agency's alert.

The smoke Saskatchewan is expected to remain in place for the next day or two.

Those conditions can cause otherwise healthy people to experience sore eyes, tears, coughing and a runny nose, Environment Canada says in its alert.

The smoke could be seen and smelled as far south as Brandon on Monday morning but there are no air quality issues there, Carlsen said.

The weather forecast also has a chance of rain, even a risk of a thunderstorm, through the morning in Brandon, so the smoke should be diluted enough that it won't become an issue, he said.

"That said, we do monitor it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So if things should change for the worse, we will issue an air quality advisory."

The situation should be much the same for Winnipeg, which is looking at thunderstorm possibilities in the afternoon, Carlsen said.


Darren Bernhardt spent the first dozen years of his journalism career in newspapers, at the Regina Leader-Post then the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. He has been with CBC Manitoba since 2009 and specializes in offbeat and local history stories. He is the author of award-nominated and bestselling The Lesser Known: A History of Oddities from the Heart of the Continent.