By Stan Ashbee
Sunny South News
It’s no surprise southern Alberta has been almost under siege with severe weather warnings already this summer, which include thunderstorms, hail and the odd funnel cloud.
“What is severe weather? Well, it’s when warm air dukes it out with cold air,” said David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada in Toronto.
In the winter, Phillips noted, there is sometimes too much cool air and in the summer there’s too much warm air.
“But where you get that coming together — the meeting, of course the jet stream — is really the mix master. It’s the one that kind of divides the warm air and the cold air. The fact it crosses the province in June from a winter to a summer mode is why June is by far the wettest month,” said Phillips.
In the Lethbridge County region, June is usually a monsoon season, Phillips said. The average precipitation is approximately 82 millimetres of rain in an average June. In May, Phillips added, precipitation is 50 millimetres and in August precipitation is around 43 millimetres. “There’s something clearly about June that brings the area active weather,” he said, which makes severe weather warnings in June, not foreign.
Sometimes, Phillips said, the weather can be violent or present a heavy dose of rain, which has been seen in the past with heavy rainfall and flooding. Tornadoes, Phillips said, are usually seen more in the month of July. Hail is also prevalent in central Alberta and from Red Deer and southward is a prime target for severe weather.
“It’s no big weather headline,” he said, adding this type of weather is part of the climate of southern Alberta, which includes Lethbridge County. Looking at the numbers though, Phillips explained, there were no rescue rains in the area but wind and severe weather warnings were in effect in many parts of the province.
Phillips said the frustrating aspect is — the agricultural area of Alberta needs rain — but this has been one of the driest times in history. Only about 10 millimetres of precipitation was reported in June, when normally there is 82 millimetres of precipitation. And, April and May was dry.
Even though the area has been short-changed with wet weather, the good news Phillips said is, the temperatures haven’t been excessively warm. “You haven’t had what you would call real scorching kind of temperatures.”
“Which would have made the vegetation, the ranches, and the fields more parched, more scorched and more stressed than what you had,” said Phillips, but the area is in need of rescue rains and a good old drink of water to quench the dryness.
Even though the area has had plenty of severe weather warnings as of late, it is more of a tease, as there hasn’t been any significant precipitation. As hail, micro-burst and plough winds don’t necessarily amount to rain.
Phillips said as for the next few weeks, temperatures are usually a high of 26 and a low of around 5 degrees.
“What we see is rather boring and monotonous kind of weather. Just dry, sunny and highs of 29-34. You’re going to see some of the warmest temperatures of the summer. And it’s not what the doctor ordered. It’s not what you want,” said Phillips.
Phillips said if the warm temperatures continue this month, fields and vegetation can become stressed, if they aren’t already.
“Every bead of moisture is being evaporated by the atmosphere with nothing returned,” said Phillips, adding with all the local irrigation, the water accumulated over the winter is just not there.
“The flows have already occurred and what you see is what you’re going to get,” he noted.
In 68 years, Phillips said, the area had the driest winter and spring on record and temperature-wise it was also warmer than normal. “You weren’t cursed with a tough winter but sometimes you wish you had a tougher winter because it might have made the growing prospects this year. Of course it’s great grasshopper weather but it’s not what you need.”