Red Deer County News

Posted on: July 20, 2017

Whether The Weather - Precipitation Over Time

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by Ken Lewis, Conservation Coordinator

I have heard lots of talk these days about how we are getting “way more moisture” in recent years. Often, when I’m hearing this, it’s during conversations about draining fields or draining wetlands. Sometimes though, I wonder if our memories can play tricks on us. Lucky for us Canadians (we love to talk about weather!), when it comes to weather related topics, we have a wealth of information literally at our fingertips.

Here’s a look at some data available to anyone (source: “weatherstats.ca, based on Environment and Climate Change Canada data”). This is the total rainfall each year for Red Deer, between 1940 and now. The tallest bar in this graph is 1999, when we got 546.5 mm of rain. The shortest, is 1950 (198.9 mm).
Rainfall (1)
Another thing I might hear is “It’s not the amount of rainfall…it’s how it comes…it’s the big storm events…that’s the problem when it comes to excess water in fields or wetlands that keep getting bigger and bigger.” Looking at data regarding storms, it shows the number of days where we had precipitation greater than 25 mm, between 1940 and now. There isn’t much fluctuation in this sense either, the highest year is 1999, when we had seven days with more than 25 mm of precipitation.

It has to be snowfall then right? It’s all the snow we’re getting, that causes our wetlands to overflow and our soils to be saturated? Here’s the chart for total snowfall (1940 to now, with the tallest bar being 223.9 cm in 2013).
Snowfall (1)
Once again with the snow, the story is the same, it goes up and down, from year to year. There’s no visible trend going up or down over the longer term. Farmers’ and ranchers’ businesses are dependent on the weather and they have to make decisions for the future (regarding things like drainage), using what has happened in the past as a key source of information. The graphs in this article remind us all, that our memories don’t always tell us 100% of the story. For our weather-related decisions, hopefully this article reminds us that we don’t want to rely strictly on memory. Instead, we want to use the right combination of memory, records, and science, to make the best possible decisions.

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