CANADA – Canada’s Prairies are finally experiencing some relief from one of the most severe multi-year droughts, with late April and early May bringing much-needed, well-distributed rainfall to the region.

Although the drought has not completely ended, the recent rains have improved topsoil moisture levels significantly. This improvement allows for aggressively planting key crops such as wheat, barley, oats, canola, corn, soybeans, and lentils in the upcoming weeks with reduced fear of another drought year.

Similar drought relief has been observed in parts of the central United States. However, Mexico continues to grapple with severe drought conditions.

Meteorologists are also forecasting the possibility of hotter and drier weather in the central United States this summer, raising questions about the overall trajectory of drought conditions in North America.

World Weather, Inc. attributes the onset of the drought, which began in 2020, to the 22-year solar cycle and a multi-year La Niña event. This cycle historically triggers extreme drought conditions in parts of North America. 

The current easing of drought conditions coincides with the approaching solar maximum, expected later this year and into 2025. However, breaking a continental drought like this is a gradual process that requires multiple rounds of significant rainfall.

In Mexico, despite the ongoing drought, the decline of El Niño increases the chances of a return to normal monsoon patterns in 2024. While the lingering atmospheric effects of El Niño may delay the onset of these rains, improvements are anticipated later in the year.

The recent rains in Canada’s southwestern Prairies have created favorable conditions for aggressive spring fieldwork throughout May. Canadian farmers remain resilient despite persistent subsoil dryness and below-normal river and stream flows. 

They are determined to leverage the current planting window and hope that the harsh drought conditions of the past few years will ease.

However, it is worth noting that some regions may still face challenges. In particular, Southern Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan might experience drier and warmer conditions this summer. 

Forecasters anticipate a high-pressure ridge over the central US in June and July. This could lead to excessive heat and rapid soil drying in the central and southern US Plains and the southwestern Corn and Soybean Belt.

Fortunately, this ridge’s orientation may also direct storm systems from the US Pacific Northwest into Canada’s Prairies, bringing additional significant rainfall crucial for spring and summer crop development. Nevertheless, concerns remain for southern Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan, where precipitation may be more limited.

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