Climate change may bring more dry seasons to Canadian Prairies

USask hydrologist expects more rainfall despite extreme heat

Some parts of the Canadian Prairies are experiencing the ‘worst drought in at least 50 years,’ said John Pomeroy, the Canada Research Chair in Water Resources and Climate Change, and a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Saskatchewan.

The hydrologist noted that for Manitoba, this could be the worst drought since settlement in the 1800s.

Leading up to this year, seasons have been dry but this summer is historically bad.

The extreme conditions have piqued his interests. One research project investigates future agriculture in the Prairies and southern Ontario. The extreme heat is driven by climate change and it will likely only get worse in the latter half of the 21st Century.

Pomeroy said that more rain is also expected. Research has yet to determine if the precipitation will sufficiently offset the rise in temperatures.

"Saskatchewan agriculture has adapted over many years to dry land conditions and persistent drought. That's part of what we do. But this particular event is taxing even the innovations that producers have made over time," he said.

The latest crop report, covering July 27 to August 2, said that only three percent of topsoil for crop farmers has adequate moisture. About 66 percent of it is very short.

Pomeroy wants the federal government to accelerate the establishment of the Canada Water Agency, which will be tasked with managing Canadian water resources. Other responsibilities will include addressing floods, drought and climate change in vulnerable regions like the Prairies. About $17.4 million was allocated to its creation in the 2021 federal budget.