06/25/2015 11:00 EDT | Updated 06/25/2016 05:59 EDT

Dry, Dry Western Canada Braces For Hot And Hard-Growing Summer

The wild swings in weather have even inspired a new term in climate circles called "weather whiplash."

Shutterstock / ChameleonsEye

There's a crunch under Kent Erickson's shoes as he walks onto his canola fields in Irma, Alta., 175 kilometres southeast of Edmonton. You can practically hear the dry with every footstep.

He stops and kicks the dirt to demonstrate how little rain fallen this month. "We're at roughly an inch of moisture when we're normally at five to six inches of moisture," he says.

He picks one of the tiniest canola plants out of the dusty earth. Thin roots and tiny leaves tell the story.

"We want that crop really bushy and with as much vegetation as possible," Erickson, a farmer who serves on the board of the Alberta Wheat Commission told CBC News. "You look around today, and there's not a lot of vegetation." 

Only a scattered few plants are leafy and beginning to flower. As far as the eye can see, there is brown between the rows of undergrown canola crops. Erickson's wheat crop across a dusty gravel road may not be faring much better.

The stressed, failing crops are falling victim to the driest spring on the Prairies in the 68 years of national record-keeping.

"June is typically the wet month, the month where crops are growing feverishly, and it just hasn't happened," said David Phillips, Environment Canada's senior climatologist, in Barrie, Ont.  "So people are using the D-words: dryness, drought, no question about it."

Compounding the problem is that the dry spring came on the heels of one of the warmest, driest winters, particularly in parts of British Columbia and Alberta.

These dry conditions are a stark contrast to a wet spring last year and the heavy rains and run-off from melting snow pack in the Rocky Mountains that led to damaging floods in Alberta in 2013.

The wild swings in weather have even inspired a new term in climate circles called "weather whiplash," Phillips said.

"It has been one extreme to another, and it has been a tremendous challenge for farmers, ranchers and growers. They can't deal with these kind of weird, wild, and wacky kind of changes."

But it's the long-term forecast that is even more worrying for the immediate future. It predicts more dry conditions coupled with heat waves through to September. 

Temperatures are expected to be six to 11 degrees higher than average in most of Western Canada.  

British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, western Manitoba and parts of Yukon and Northwest Territories can all expect areas of extreme dryness or drought if that forecast holds. 

Erickson knows that unless there are some timely rains, heat will slowly bake his crops, dramatically reducing the yield of some and destroying others. 

"It would be lovely to wake up in the morning to a nice soaking rain," he said. "That's what this area needs for our pasture, for our crops."

Instead, the forecast is for more heat and more sunshine that will inevitably dry up profits for farmers across Western Canada.    

"I just hope the weather man is wrong," Erickson said with a knowing shrug. "There's one thing that you can't control in farming, and that's the weather." 


  • Stay indoors
    Stay indoors
    WIN-Initiative via Getty Images
    But keep a look through the peephole. Soon, the rain will come back. Thank god.
  • Keep the curtains closed
    Keep the curtains closed
    idal via Getty Images
    No you fools! Not like this! The light can get in through the slats!
  • Drink water
    Drink water
    Jupiterimages via Getty Images
    No one would have thought of that
  • Eat salad
    Eat salad
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    ... and avoid... hot food?
  • Muslims should watch out if they're fasting
    Muslims should watch out if they're fasting
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    And look at this hot food too. That can't be good.
  • Keep an eye on overweight kids in case they overheat
    Keep an eye on overweight kids in case they overheat
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    This lad seems to be doing just fine
  • Don't leave your dog alone in the hot car
    Don't leave your dog alone in the hot car
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    This is actually quite serious. Look at how happy this little guy is when you are in the car with him. With the window down.
  • Wear a scarf and hat
    Wear a scarf and hat
    Mimi  Haddon via Getty Images
    Pretty much the same advice goes for winter.
  • Make children play in the shade
    Make children play in the shade
    mtreasure via Getty Images
    If you live in the city, chances are your garden is already in the shade because of the towering apartment block/Tesco Extra they built after you bought the place.
  • Don't exert yourself
    Don't exert yourself
    Paul Aresu via Getty Images
    Running in the bracing wind and driving rain is so much better