Rain and snow forecast for parts of Saskatchewan later this week will do little to compensate for a major moisture deficit in the province, an expert says.
About 93 per cent of the prairie provinces are abnormally dry or experiencing extreme drought, said John Pomeroy, Canada Research Chair in water resources and climate change.
“It would take many, many days of rain to soak into the soils now to replenish it,” Pomeroy told Global News.
“There are no parts of the province except maybe Cypress Hills that have normal soil moisture conditions and normal precipitation.”
Much of southeastern Saskatchewan is experiencing extreme drought, but dry soil conditions stretch into the north, Pomeroy said.
Similar conditions span much of Canada and into New Mexico in the United States, he added.
“It’s a vast drought and there’s no indication that that’s breaking any time,” he said.
From October to now, he said much of Saskatchewan has gotten only 40 per cent of the precipitation it would normally see.
That’s a problem for farmers, but it’s also a concern for firefighters. Dry soil is topped with dry debris, which is prime wildfire fuel.
Record-breaking heat earlier this week didn’t help. Now, potentially record-low temperatures are on the way, said Environment Canada senior climatologist David Phillips.
“Weather out your front door is different than your back door,” Phillips said in an interview on Wednesday.
“Because of these changes of temperature, we might see widespread showers.”
The coming rain and snow is a win for crews fighting the Cloverdale wildfire, said Steve Roberts, operations vice president for the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA).
So far, dry conditions and low humidity have been a problem.
“That’s where… we have the most risk to our containment efforts to date,” Roberts said.
“Any precipitation we get will just further… enhance our crew’s efforts.”
With drought conditions primarily in the south, Roberts said there will likely be more grass fires in the region. In the north, he anticipates a normal wildfire season.
Fires put property at risk, so loss prevention experts urge people to protect their homes from blowing embers.
“While no group or individual can… stop a wildfire, there are things that you can do to help prepare your property,” said Tara Laidman, associate vice president for The Co-operators national product and portfolio.
“Some of those things are relatively easy and things that people can do… as long as they think about it ahead of time.”
People should trim nearby trees, clear debris from their eavestroughs and under their decks, and move combustible material like patio furniture inside.
Ultimately, Pomeroy said the best prevention method is responding to climate change.
“Every year, we have some natural disaster in Canada now. It’s a fire or a flood or a drought and they’re getting worse,” he said.
“We have to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere as a matter of urgency.”