By Jason Nimegeers and Dr. Herb Cutforth, Semiarid Prairie Agricultural Research Centre
Swift Current-area weather in 2012 proved to be a mixed bag of contrasts that included abnormally high precipitation and a record-level dry period during the second half of the growing season.
For the third straight year, the region experienced above-normal precipitation that included 12 days of freezing rain, four days with hail and two blizzards. Total accumulation at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) meteorological weather site (located five kilometers southeast of Swift Current) amounted to 406 millimeters, much higher than the 127-year (1886-2012) average of 364 millimeters. However, the distribution of precipitation was very unusual:
- 74 per cent of the 2012 total fell from January-June. In 2011, 60 per cent of the year’s annual precipitation fell during the same time period, and 49 per cent in 2010. The long-term average is 52 per cent .
- 87 per cent of growing-season (April-September) precipitation fell from April-June. In 2011, 65 per cent fell over the same time period, and 52 per cent in 2010. The long-term average is 52 per cent.
While the first half of the growing season may have been about high precipitation, the second was another story altogether. In fact, the three-month period from July to September was the driest ever recorded in 127 years of weather data collected at Swift Current.
A little warmer
Though not the warmest year on the books, 2012 took over the No. 10 spot with an average temperature of 5.1°Celsius, warmer than the 127-year average of 3.6°C but well short of 1987’s record of 6.8°C.
The first three months of 2012 were very warm, with an average temperature of -3.6°C, well above the long-term average of -9.1°C. From December of 2011 to February of 2012, the region saw 37 straight days with above-average temperatures, and temperatures exceeded the daily average on 77 of 91 days over that time frame. Overall, December 2011 to February 2012 was the fifth warmest on record.
Further, 2012 boasted the sixth warmest average minimum temperature in 127 years. At about -0.3°C, the 2012 average minimum was significantly warmer than the long-term average of -2.5°C. The number of frost-free days (0°C) was 14 days longer and killing frost-free days (-2°C) was 30 days longer than the historic average. The hottest day occurred on August 28, when the temperature reached 34.1°C, whereas the coldest day of the year occurred on January 18, when the temperature dipped to -34.6°C.
Thus, the Swift Current area experienced a yearly temperature range of about 69°C. The largest range (about 88°C) occurred in 1936 when the high was 39.4°C and the low fell to -48.3°C.
Less wind, more fog
Wind run – which refers to the amount of wind passing by a specific site over a certain period of time – was down in 2012 at the AAFC metrological site. The total wind run 2 metres above ground was 130,992 km, the 10th lowest in 52 years. The average at 2 metres is 135,798 km. The highest gust of 91.3 km/hr occurred at the 10 metre height on June 27.
The area had 27 days of fog in 2012; the average is 7.5 days. Ten spring/summer thunderstorms produced 1,660 air-to-ground lightning strikes within a 10 kilometer radius of the AAFC metrological site. On average, 11.5 thunderstorms occur each year, generating about 1,730 air-to-ground lightning strikes.
Swift Current-area highlights
March 19: Several forms of precipitation occurred: freezing rain, rain, sleet, ice pellets and snow.
March 23: 10 centimeters of snow fell, the most since March 18, 2008 when the area received 10.2 centimeters.
April 27: A total of 23.6 millimeters of precipitation fell.
May 5-6: Two straight days of precipitation totaled 38.3 millimeters.
May 26-27: 33.5 millimeters of rain and 9.5 centimeters of snow fell. May 2012 was the seventh wettest in 127 years.
June 26: 22.5 millimeters of precipitation fell in about 30 minutes, including marble- and toonie-sized hail.
There were several reports of funnel clouds in the area, and 351 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes.
October 28-November 4: The area experienced eight consecutive days with fog.