Each year, Environment and Climate Change Canada's senior climatologist David Phillips releases his top ten weather stories of the year. In 2021, four took place across the Prairies and had effects on our area. Over the next few days, we will look at those stories in a four-part series.
We begin with our first story: "The Drought".
It's a disaster story so wild you'd have to live it to believe it.
Unfortunately for many people in southern Manitoba, they did.
The drought that took place in 2021 was one many ranchers and farmers call one of the worst, ever. Environment and Climate Change Canada's senior climatologist David Phillips says some compare it to 1988 and 1961 while historians look at it like the 1930s.
"We've seen records just being clobbered in the Prairies, in terms of dry conditions," says Phillips. "The moisture deficit is almost like, a three-year-deficit would amount to a year's worth of rain. That's how much you would have to get just to get back up to a balance mark."
During the summer, many rural communities were declaring states of agricultural disaster. The Canadian Drought Monitor said much of the agricultural landscape was classified as a drought scene.
"We saw reports of 99 per cent of the Prairies was in a drought situation," says Phillips. "Now, some are more 'droughty' than others, but clearly, the epicentre for the drought, was southern Manitoba. You couldn't get moisture. The other thing that compounded that, was how hot it was."
According to Phillips, between early June and mid-August, almost half of the days featured temperatures near-or-above 30 degrees Celsius. Add in that it was one of the driest summers in 75 years, and it was, "too dry and too hot for too long." While the crops were not great for farmers, the grasshoppers and gophers seemed to thrive.
He adds, when people look back on 2021 as a whole forty years from now, they might say, "it wasn't too bad", but Phillips sums in up in four words: "Give me a break."
Phillips says as farmers were trying to proceed with their harvest, that's when the rains finally came. For example, in Winnipeg, three-quarters of the warm-season rainfall fell over a period of just three days. This was the case across many farms in the region.
Phillips says when it's all said and done, the economic loss from this year's dryness will, "easily be in the billions of dollars".
You can read more on this story and the other top stories of the year here.