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Dry conditions plague parts of Canada


Farms are suffering through a dry spring and summer in parts of Canada (iStock photo)
Farms are suffering through a dry spring and summer in parts of Canada (iStock photo)

Lyndsay Morrison, staff writer

July 12, 2012 — Recent hot and dry weather is causing major problems for farmers, gardeners and forest fires across parts of the country.

Water bans are in place for some provinces because of the lack of rain
Water bans are in place for some provinces because of the lack of rain

It's been a year unlike any other in some parts of Canada. 

Above-normal temperatures and a recent lack of precipitation has sections of the country in desperate need of a soaking. It's a situation impacting farmers and gardeners, and one that has prompted fire bans and water bans. 

"Conditions are extremely dry in some parts of Canada this summer," says Gerald Cheng, a meteorologist at The Weather Network. "This is especially the case from Manitoba to Atlantic Canada."

The numbers are staggering - both in terms of hot temperatures and a lack of precipitation. 

"Toronto has just broken a yearly record when it comes to temperatures," says Rob Davis, another meteorologist at The Weather Network. "July 2011 to June 2012 was the city's hottest 12-month period in recorded history."

Normally, the city gets an average of 13 days of 30°C each summer. This year, there have already been 13. It's a similar situation in Ottawa, where between June 8 - July 8 there were 10 days of 30°C temperatures, compared to 4 in a typical year. 

Recently, temperatures have also been soaring in the west. The first 19 days of summer in Inuvik, Northwest Territories were all above 20°C, with three days reaching at least 30°C. 

"It's not unprecedented, but it's  definitely rare," Davis says. 

Still, for many, the lack of rain has been even more alarming than the high temperatures. 

Cities like Halifax and Charlottetown have been below their monthly average of rainfall since May. In a normal July, Halifax would get more than 100 mm of rain. So far this month, there has only been 6 mm.

The forest fire risk is extreme in parts of the country
The forest fire risk is extreme in parts of the country

The situation is similar in both Winnipeg in Toronto, where only 4.5 mm and 2.8 mm of rain has fallen in this July. In Ontario, vegetables are wilting, lawns are parched and sections of the province are at "record dry" levels for the agricultural growing season. 

"You couldn't give me enough rain right now," says Sandra Pella, head gardener at Toronto Botanical Gardens. "I would take a week's worth everyday straight. I know people don't want it to rain, but they need to be aware that our vegetables, our fruiting trees, crops, plants, gardens are suffering." 

Corn farmers in Ontario were pleased with last year's mild, dry winter. However, that turned into a warm, dry spring and the rain never came. Now, after hoping for a bumper crop, farmers are waiting for the rain to start falling. 

And they'll need rain, too, considering water bans have implemented in many regions of Ontario this month. 

Still, it's not just farms and gardens that have been affected by this summer's dry weather. The fire risk is also extreme in northern Alberta, the Northwest Territories, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. 

While a significant drenching may not be in the immediate future for many dry communities, Cheng says the weather pattern could change. 

"It's still early in the summer, and summer rain usually comes in bursts," Cheng explains. "Just look at Swan River, Manitoba this week. They got 77 mm of rain in one night. So a day of rain can make up for a lack there of."

Cheng says that summer rain is also often convective, which means one city may get a drenching while another stays dry. 

"It's unfortunate that it can't always be evenly distributed," he says, "but we'll be watching for those systems and thunderstorms in the days to come." 

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