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Some Drought Improvement in December but Deficits Remain

Prairie drought continued to show some minor improvement in December, although significant precipitation deficits still remain, particularly in the more southern region.

According to the latest monthly update of the Canadian drought monitor (see map below), above-normal precipitation occurred through the northern and central portions of the Prairies during December, while slightly below-normal precipitation fell in parts of the south.

But while the Prairie region continued a gradual improvement in drought severity and extent, especially in the short term, the amount of precipitation the region received during the fall and early winter has been “far less than required to make up for the large deficits from the past year,” the monitor said.

For example, portions of southern Manitoba have seen significant fall and early winter precipitation, in some cases up to 150% of normal over the past three months. But in the wake of long-term precipitation deficits of nearly 250 mm in the last year and a half, areas of extreme to exceptional drought remain, along with persistent water supply concerns.

Indeed, annual precipitation statistics highlight just how dry this past year was, with several locations reporting their top 10 driest years. Most notably, North Battleford experienced its driest year on record, receiving only 180.4 mm of precipitation compared with the normal 374.2 mm - roughly 48% of normal. Saskatoon and Swift Current were the 2nd and 3rd driest on record, respectively. Conditions were also historically dry across central and northern Saskatchewan: Prince Albert and Key Lake rated as 6th and 5th driest on record for the year.

Still, there has been progress in some areas. The Moose Jaw and Regina region continued to receive near-normal precipitation through December, and combined with above-normal late summer and early fall precipitation, overall drought and dryness is retreating.

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