If you don’t like Southern Alberta weather wait a minute

If you listen to the pundits you would think that we are about to have the driest year in history. But as usual it is more story than fact.

On the farm, our neighbour Andrew, kept daily weather records. Andrew started keeping those records sometime before 1910. Every day he recorded the high and low temperature. The amount of moisture whether it came down as snow or rain. The wind speeds and directions.

February7 2020, as is typical of old farms the old building are left to the the wind and the rain to slowly disintegrate over time. Sometimes the old buildings will be dismantled, sometimes they will be bulldozed, sometimes, the entire farmstead will be put to the match or plowed under.

You know what you can tell from real records kept in the same place for over 100 years? Patterns. Yep, if you look, you will see that about every 30 years the weather will repeat itself. Wet years, dry years, they come, they go. Rinse and repeat.

The 60’s

Now, I’m not as accurate with my timelines, because I only remember what I remember. But in the early 60’s we had years so dry that we just plowed the fields back into the ground because the wheat and barley didn’t grow tall enough to harvest. Dust storms so bad that we could not see our pig barn that was less than 100 feet from the house.

This is a dust storm just south of Lethbridge, that is the Wilson Siding, or 845 turn off. If you look very closely you can just make out the top of the grain terminal above the dust cloud. Not from the early 60’s but from 2021 and the first dust storm of this intensity that I can remember since the 1960’s

Years where you had to keep the combine header so close to the ground that you were picking rocks rather than harvesting grain.

February 07, 2020 and barely a sign of snow on the landscape.

I also remember years where the crops were so tall that it was over my head. To be fair I was a kid, so not that tall, but even by today’s measurement it would be over my waist, making it probably three feet.

One of the other things you notice from looking at those daily records is that in southern Alberta most of our snow pack comes in February and March and major snowstorms can arrive as late as June.

Also in the late 60’s (I think 1967 but it might have been 1968) that we had a May snowstorm that brought all of southern Alberta to a halt.

One of the kids I went to school with was a rancher and Military helicopters were brought in to carry hay to feed his families cattle stranded in the fields.

Our neighbour – the one that kept the weather records – drove the three miles from his farm with his Minneapolis-Moline tractor to see if Dad could take the bulldozer over to his place to plow a path to his cows so he could feed them.

February 7, 2020 a state of the art for its time seed drill abandoned in a field that has little snow cover

Once he finished there, he moved on to other friends and family plowing their yards out.

Even once all the roads were plowed, it was still like driving through an alien landscape with snow banks along the edge of the road reaching over the top of school buses.

And most of the time the Victoria Day weekend – the start of camping season – is usually cold and wet.

1990’s Chin reservoir drys up

In the early 2000’s Chin reservoir was so dry that it went from being a lake of over 150,000 acre feet to a mere stream. It was so dry that the police were able to recover a rifle that they though might have been used in a murder from the mud.

On February 7 2024 we got one of those snow storms covering most of Alberta with over a foot of snow in most places and several feet in some places near the mountains.


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